Garage Sale-ing for Dummies

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Before I had Fox, I decided that the best way to get some great toys and baby stuff would be buy them second hand.  We have been living on a student budget for the past 5 1/2 years, so buying all new things was out of the question.

We had generous friends and a work baby shower that gave us a lot of the essentials for Fox, but I still thought it would be great to find a few toys for when he got a little older (and I was just excited to get some baby stuff).

I found out that a friend from church was a big garage sale-er and the next time she went, I tagged along.  She is really amazing.  She goes garage sale-ing in October, and gets all her Christmas gifts for her kids (she has 5), and is a super savvy buyer.

Here are a few things I learned from her and a few subsequent garage sales:

1.  Don't be afraid to walk away without buying anything (even if you are friends with the person selling).

2.  If you think the price is to high, ask for a lower price.  The worst thing they can say is no, and if you don't think it is worth it, walk away.

3.  Go with a specific list in mind, but be open to other items that might be useful.

4. Be prepared to drive around a lot, and get out a lot (I would recommend that you don't take little kids on this outing).

5.  Look for items you might need in the future (baby items, Christmas gifts, etc).

6. With the previous point in mind, don't just buy stuff because it is cheap!  Get things that will actually benefit your life.

7. Start early.  The best stuff goes to those who get there first.  If you can go at 7AM, you get first pickings.

I love garage sales because not only do you get some great stuff on the cheap, but it is also a great way to get to know people in your community better.  It is a wonderful way to buy second hand, and do a good thing for the environment.

Do you have an pearls of garage sale wisdom to share?  Let me know in the comments!

Vegetarian Yellow Curry

Friday, April 21, 2017

This post is in partnership with RiceSelect and Mambo Sprouts, but all opinions and text is my own. 

Many years ago, while attending college, I spent my birthday away from family and birthday traditions. I was worried my birthday would be a big let-down without the usual festivities, so instead, I decided to do go totally wild and do what I wanted.  That meant getting takeout from my favorite Thai restaurant, and eating it on the couch while I watched a movie (I am obviously a total wild child...).  It was a memorable birthday, because it was exactly what I needed to celebrate that birthday.  

The Thai dish that I got that day (and always get, actually) was a yellow curry with potatoes, onions, chicken and carrots, and it was divine.  Then I moved far away from that Thai place, and had to recreate it on my own.  I tried a number of recipes, went through many packets of yellow curry paste, and even made my own curry paste a few times.  None of them was quite right. 

This one isn't a total copy either (maybe one day I will figure out how they make theirs' so sublime), but this recipe is marvelous!  I love that it is vegetarian (or not, if you like meat), and that you don't have to have a yellow curry paste packet to make it.  Feel free to increase the amounts of any of the spices that you wish, because that is part of the fun of curry.  It is surprisingly playful and typically pretty forgiving. 

I also took this curry up one more notch by serving it with RiceSelect Texmati Brown Rice.  It is a very good brown rice. I typically think brown rice leaves something to be desired, but this was really a lovely, hearty rice.  As I have become more and more environmentally conscious, buying 'Grown in the USA' products has become much more important to me.  I love that Texmati rice is actually produced in Texas, is all-natural and non-GMO, so I feel great about eating it.  It also holds its shape really well, and doesn't go all mushy after sitting for 10 minutes like many types of rice.  Hooray for non-soggy rice!   

I am giving away 2 canisters of RiceSelect Texmati Brown Rice and a super genius tote bag that will be perfect for your adventures to the pool this summer (at least that is what I will be doing with mine, because it is so sturdy, huge and  zips closed!).  Just leave me a comment telling us what you will be making with the RiceSelect Brown Rice if you win, and your instagram handle or email, so I can contact the winner!  

The giveaway will end on Tuesday, April 24th at 11:59PM.  I will pick a winner on Wednesday, April 25th, and notify you, so I can get your information for shipping.   (Updated 4/25 I forgot to mention US readers only.  Mambo Sprouts will be shipping product to the winner!)

Vegetarian Yellow Curry
Serves 3-4

2 Tbs unrefined coconut oil
1/2 onion cut into quarters
2 carrots, cut into wheels then quartered
1 large russet potato, diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp white sugar
1 can coconut milk (or you can use 1/2 cup coconut cream and 1 cup of water)
2 tsp white vinegar
4 tsp soy sauce
1/4 peanut butter
2-4 Tbs of water (depending on desired thickness)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large frying pan.  Add the onions, and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until they have begun to soften a little.  Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, curry powder and sugar and stir until it has coated the onions.  Add the potatoes and carrots and continuously stir in the pan for 1-2 minutes.  

Now add the coconut milk, the vinegar, soy sauce and peanut butter.  Stir for a minute or two until it is smooth. Add the water if needed, and let the mixture simmer for 15-20 minutes, adding more water if the mixture gets too thick, or doesn't cover the vegetables well enough.  Keep tasting to see if you need to add more spices/peanut butter, because adding water will water down the flavor.    

Once the potatoes and carrots are soft, remove from heat, and serve over RiceSelect Texmati Brown Rice.  This will keep for 3-4 days, and is usually even better a day or two in as the flavors have time to meld.  Enjoy!  

Honey Jalapeño Mustard Toasted Sandwiches

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

*This post is in collaboration with Mary's Secret Ingredients, but all opinions are my own.  

I thought April was going to be a relatively peaceful month (despite our upcoming move), but I had completely forgotten about prom.  Now, I am not going to prom (and I am so glad), and I don't have kids going to prom, but I am a seamstress, which means prom dresses have been hanging in my closet for close to a month now, as I have fit and altered a bunch.  
So squeezing in a few hours of alteration every week around my regular life has been a challenge.  Especially trying to get meals prepared.  Thankfully, last week, I got a super fun box from Mary's Secret Ingredients that has helped make dinner prep just a little easier.  

They send a surprise box every quarter with high quality, delicious ingredients to make fun meals.  This time the box included some truffles(We actually gifted these to a friend because they were so beautiful, and needed a little gift last minute), a sesame dressing (I haven't tried this one yet), a chocolate sesame spread(this is a glorious item!), and a fabulous jalapeño honey mustard.  

This toasted sandwich includes the Wilder Jalapeño honey mustard, and it totally makes the sandwich.  I normally insist this kind of a sandwich have bacon, but it didn't even need it.  
Mary's Secret Ingredients would make a terrific Mother's Day or Father's Day gift to the cook in your family.  I know I loved receiving my box, and can't wait to try out these ingredients in a few other recipes.  

Honey Jalapeño Mustard Sandwiches
Makes two sandwiches

4 slices of Challah or other white bread
1 apple, thinly sliced
5-8 thin slices of sharp cheddar cheese
2 tsp Wilder Honey Jalapeño Mustard

Spread the honey mustard in a thick layer on all four slices of your bread, carefully lay the apple on two of the slices of bread, and top it with thin slices of cheese.  Put the final two pieces of bread on top, and toast under the broiler, a grill pan or panini press.


The Ultimate Guide Cooking with Dried Beans

Monday, April 17, 2017

This is the world's driest blog post title (pun intended).  But really, what a boring topic.  However, I have a feeling this type of post will be useful to some of you, so I wanted to write it anyway.

My church has a big focus on preparing for the future and being self reliant.  Part of that focus is putting some food away for an emergency.  Typically it is a actually a lot of food (a three month to one year supply for each person in your family).

As a kid, I always thought this was some zombie apocalypse-type preparation, but really, it is more about being prepared for loss of a job, a natural disaster, or something other situation where getting food might be difficult.  Basically just being smart and having extra on hand.

The issue is that in our age of pre-prepared everything, a lot of people don't know how to cook with the kinds of items that can be stored long-term (think beans, lentils, oats, flour, etc), because lots of people rarely make food from scratch.

Last week, I gave a little presentation to the ladies from church about using up beans from food storage.  I made two different recipes, and talked about how easy beans are to make.  I

I thought it might be helpful for more than just those ladies, so here we go!

For starters, dried beans are much cheaper than canned beans.  I looked on Sam's club's website (because it was easier than trying to figure out what was the best deal on amazon), and these were the price differences, and the amount in cups that each would give you.

$7.73 for a six pack of 29 oz cans (these are really big cans, not your standard 15 oz cans) = approximately 21.6 cups of beans in a six pack.

$8.29 for a 12 pound bag of dried beans  = 72 cups of cooked beans

It is pretty complicated to figure out exactly how much less it is for dried vs canned, but this gives you a general idea of how much less it will cost you (I think I overestimated how much you would save in my class... sorry ladies!).

Now onto cooking dried beans a few different ways:  

Cooking Directions in a Crockpot (if you want a swinging flavor on these, try this crockpot method):

2 cups of dry beans

4-6 cups water (enough to cover the black beans by two or three inches)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 bay leaf

Rinse the dry beans, put them in the crockpot, and cover with water.  Sprinkle garlic powder, and add bay leaf.  Let cook on high for 3-4 hours, until they are soft.  Let them cool and freeze or refrigerate and use within 5 days.

Stove Top Directions:

2 cups of dried beans
4-6 cups of water (enough to cover the beans by two or three inches)
¼ tsp garlic powder
1 bay leaf

Rinse beans, put them in the pot, cover the pot, and bring the pot to a boil.  Turn down the heat, once you have reached a boil, and let it simmer for a looooong time, with the lid on.  Probably about 1-3 hours, checking on them occasionally.  Once they are soft, remove from heat, drain and refrigerate or freeze them.

Instapot Directions: 

1 pound dried beans
8 cups water (don’t fill your instapot more than halfway full)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
2 or 3 cloves peeled garlic, optional
1 bay leaf, optional

Combine ingredients (make sure your pressure cooker is not more than halfway full).  Seal the lid. Cook the beans (check your instapot manual for exact cook times per type of bean you are using).  Let the pressure release naturally.

Conversions for dried to cooked beans:

1 pound dried beans = Up to 6 cups of cooked beans
1 cup dried beans = 3 cups of cooked beans
⅓ cup dried beans = 1 cup cooked beans
⅔ cup dried beans = 2 cups cooked beans

A few random notes: 

- Old beans will take longer to cook.  I have only used 2-3 year old beans, so I have never had that issue, but if you beans are really old, they could take many more hours to cook, so plan ahead.

- Don't cook Red Kidney Beans in the CrockPot, unless you have boiled them for 10 minutes on the stove first, because they contain a toxic element that has to be cooked out.  See this article for more info.

- Pretty much any type of bean (White, pinto, black-eyed pea, garbanzo, and black beans) will work cooking in any of these methods. I cook the most with black beans, garbanzo beans and white beans.  I rarely cook with pinto or black-eyed peas.  

Now onto the most interesting part of this whole post.  Recipes for using beans!  I use them in everything, so here are a few great ways to use them up!


Tacos and Wraps:




Salads and Bowls:

Happy Cooking!  Let me know if you have other questions!


The Curated Closet: Style Statement

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Defining your personal style is super scary.  When I first read "The Curated Closet," she mentioned writing a style statement, and my first thought was, "well, I am not doing that."  But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to have a written statement to refer to, particularly in times of weakness, when you are confronted with something cheap, or trendy, or whatever.

I have often been the culprit of a sale item that I liked in the store, but never got worn, because it didn't fit with anything else in my closet, or I just bought it because it was a good deal (except that it wasn't, because I almost never wore it).  So, I have defined what my personal style looks like right now, and if it changes over time, that is cool, too!  I am okay with that, but for now, I can stick to the kinds of things that will fit well in my existing closet.

Style Statement:   

I am calling my "Classic Casual."

- "Classic Casual" is all about being stylish and comfortable as a mom, every day of the year.  Pieces are not fussy, and can be easily played in and cooked in.

- Main staples include long sleeve button-down shirts, high-waisted skinny denim, tee-shirts with fun details, and lots of stripes.

- Fabrics include lots of natural fabrics like 100% cotton, linen, wool and denim. I also like a good amount of lace.

- Style is usually loose on top, fitted on bottom, or vise versa.

- Pants include a high waisted skinny jean, skinny chino style, and flared jeans.  Skirts are typically a stretchy pencil skirt, or a flared/pleated skirt.

- Shirts are typically a casual button-down, v-neck or scoop neck tee, or something with a lacey element.

- I am loving slouchy sweaters over a button down, or tee.

- Colors include shades of blue, black and grey, white, sage and emerald green, rust, tan, bright pink and red.

- My ideal outfit, is a chambray button down with grey skinnies, and booties.

Also, here is my color palette, so you can get an idea of colors that I have in my closet.  ANuschka Rees has a bunch of sample color palettes here, if you are interested in figuring out your own. 

Measure & Whisk: Real food cooking with a dash of minimalist living © . Harlie Ave Design .