Sunday, November 21, 2010

Eating cheap, yet restaurant quality, while prepping for the holidays!

Today I was watching the Food network (another addiction of mine!) and was watching this fabulous lady making some recipe and how it only cost $10 to feed 4 people. TEN DOLLARS for ONLY 4 people! I about had a heart attack! In a house full of boys, one fast approaching his teenage years (next year), they would break me easily after a week, heck a few days! I have HUNGRY boys, my youngest is no different either. In fact, he probably eats more than the other two combined some days! It got me thinking about my date night with my son too and the "gourmet" macaroni I paid an arm and leg for, which got me thinking.

So, here is how I fed my guys two meals today and it probably averaged out to a little below $10 for two meals and over 4 servings per meal. I think that was great!

My breakfast came about from a mistake yesterday, actually! I had intended to make a roast but, in my haste at the grocery store I forgot not only the seasonings but the roast! It was a really bad week for forgetting things! Well, I didn't even notice as I had a butcher paper wrapped mass in the refrigerator. So, I went about my business peeling and cutting up my carrots, potatoes and an entire onion into chunks to put into the crockpot.  By the time I added the garlic, I suddenly realized I had no seasoning. No biggie, I can make my own, then I realize the the butcher paper wrapped mass in the fridge is several packages of bacon that my mother had passed on last time I saw her, not a roast!

I looked at my gorgeous pot full of chopped veggies and garlic and was not going to waste it. I salt and peppered it, covered it and let it slow cook for most of the day. At the end of the night, I drained the veggies dumped them into a bowl and added a bit of Italian seasoning and gave it a gentle toss. Making sure that all the seasoning had been thoroughly mixed and I let it sit a bit to cool off before shoving it back into the refrigerator. My husband was the one who covered it though last night and of course snuck several bites of it and was hooked.

This morning, I came out and fried up some of that bacon from my mother. Once cooked, sat it aside to drain and made several more batches (bacon is a BIG deal in my house!! Then drained some of the grease from the pan but, not all of it. I forgot throw in the green & red peppers and mushrooms as my sons beckoned me to another room several times but, I would definitely recommend adding them. Then I threw in the veggie mix from the crockpot the day before, salted and peppered it. Then broke up the bacon into chunks (chunks I think make the guys think that they are getting way more than they really are) and added them to the mix once it was thoroughly heated through. Not a great pic but, look how good it looks! Hash from a crockpot!

The great thing is from here I did two things. One, I was able to LOAD some plates. Which was great as they only had one plate, veggies and protein always make bellies fill full, so I had leftovers. Two, I took the leftovers and filled some soft shell taco wraps with a heaping spoonful or two (depends upon the size of wraps you have around the house), then I topped with some cheese and rolled them up and froze some of them for later use and stored the rest in the fridge to be used for breakfast tomorrow or lunch! How great is that?! I still had some leftover and stored that bit in a sandwich bag for another day (When I could add an couple eggs to it and it becomes almost an entirely new dish, yet again!) Several uses for one meal! As I said before though, I think a little green/red peppers and mushrooms would've been great! 

I never ever, thought of using a crockpot for helping out with breakfast before but, you can bet I'll be doing it again! 

For dinner, I was still feeling wiped out and I confess a TV dinner was looking good for everyone! The mother in me though, knew that the last week of me being sick had not made for good meals and this week was going to go by much the same way with the Thanksgiving prep. So, I got my very tired, achy bum off the couch and headed to the kitchen. A box of Velveeta shells and cheese was peaking at me from one cupboard and the sick me once again, was saying YES! Which turns out was a GREAT idea. 

I threw them in some boiling water then the mommy guilt took over and I knew I couldn't just set that in front of everyone. So, I hauled out my two favorite things, garlic salt and Italian seasoning. I seasoned the boiling water and noodles very well. 

I cooked that bacon my mom brought as it's not going to keep forever. Sat it aside to drain. In the bacon grease I threw a whole bunch of mushrooms and some actual chopped garlic. While they were cooking up, I pressed paper towels to the top of the bacon and then ripped them into chunks. 

Then when the noodles were done and drained, I added that yummy mess above to the macaroni and LOOK what you get: 

Trust me when I say that the picture does not do it justice! They actually fought over it tonight!! It was too funny and I must say, even I was surprised by how good it was! 

The leftovers are going to be my little cheesy pot pies in the next day or so. Simply cut out some puff pastry into circles big enough to fill a muffin tin circle. Make like a mini pie crust, fill them with the leftover macaroni mix (I always add a little extra cheese here), then top with another circle and press the ends of the crust and top together, as you would a pie crust. Put in some slits to vent and shove into the oven. Cooking time really depends upon how many you have but, usually no more than 350 degrees for more than 20 or 30 minutes, just long enough for it to heat all the way through and for the crust to cook up nice and flaky. 

So, here is the rough tally for both meals shown here: 
1 lb of bacon     $1.60
1 box of macaroni  $2.50
1/2 pckg of mushrooms  $1.25
potatoes (about 6) averages out to something like $.50
carrots about the same as the potatoes but, we'll say $. 75
onion about $1.00 
garlic cloves...mere change really. 

Total cost for 2 meals in one day: $6.60!!! For two meals serving at least 4 and none of it fast food, TV dinners, or completely from a box. You really can't beat that. The great thing is that you can add fresh veggies to either meal, and it would still be under $10 for two meals! 

So, as this week passes by with rocket speed, take a minute to think through what you have at the house, you don't have to feed everyone from a drive through to make a quick meal, nor do you have to do a TV dinner or anything straight out of a box really. You can be more cost effective if you simply just add to what you've already got! 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Trying to make a stress FREE holiday!

This is crunch time....all the recipe scouring, the multiple trips to the store for the "right" potato, the right spice, now is when you have to put it all to use.

I have always had Thanksgiving at my house, every, single year, (Except this year). My house is just a bit bigger than that of my little sister and mom's place so, it makes sense. So, it's usually me that plans, preps and bakes til the sweat is dripping from my brow! This year though, my mother is in her new place at the retirement community and my little sister does not have her kids because they will be with their father. So, less people made it easier to have a holiday at my mother's place instead. Which frees things up a bit for me (kind of feel guilty about that to!)

The free time has given me time to almost fully decorate the inside of my house too. It's also given me time to answer a few emails from friends and I realized in doing this, that we're all guilty of trying to do the holidays the hard way! Even though I had learned tips along the way, I never put them to good use. It's taken several years for me to get these tips for some reason, maybe with age comes wisdom? It certainly is not beauty, let me to you. This morning's bags under the eyes can attest to that! Seriously though, I think I am a bit slow to do them because I am such a control freak. Everything has to be "just so" or it's just not worth it in my head.

So, in order to avoid that chaotic, mad rush we all feel right about now, as one holiday is at your doorstep and another one fast approaches. I'm going to pass on tips that you might've heard before in the hopes that maybe they will get into your head a lot easier and SOONER than they did mine!

1) The biggest thing that took me ages to give into was having a familial potluck holiday dinner. Have every relative coming to the big day, bring their own dish. If you have a favorite few things that you like to do, say the bird, the pies, and your famous mashed potatoes, then keep those for yourself and pass on a list of foods that you usually have and have each set of people bring a dish. Just keep a list if you have a big family so that you know who's bringing what. This way you don't end up with 4 green bean casseroles and no dressing! 

*side note: If you are "blessed" with that one relative that can burn toast and nothing ever tastes good, then that is the one you designate to bring the wine, the champagne, the sparkling cider, eggnog or whatever you have for your holiday meals. In my house, it's usually Squirt, as it's one of the only times a year I let my son have any kind of pop or soda. 

2) My favorite tip, employ your freezer!! I always over looked this step, thinking that "fresh" is best but, the truth is, if you do it properly, you can bake things ahead of time and freeze them until you need them, like cookies and muffins/cupcakes. If you're unsure as to what is the best way to freeze a cupcake, click here and for the answer as to how long they will keep in the freezer or refrigerator, click here. For cookie freezing (oooh and brownie) freezing tips, head over to Confessions of a Cookbook Queen where she tells you how it's done and done right! (Thank goodness, she shares that brownie recipe there!)

3) Cleaning and decluttering. Here is where I pass on a great tip from the home organizing genius Flylady. Baby steps!! If you actually start decluttering, cleaning and decorating weeks in advance, it is not as overwhelming. She has the fabulous idea of a "weekly house blessing", that lasts only an hour, where you devote ONLY 10 minutes to each of these tasks: vacuum, dust, mop, polish mirrors and doors, change bed sheets, empty all the trash and purge your magazines/mail. You set your timer and go to town for ONLY 1 hour, 10 minutes each task. I know this sounds a bit silly to some at first and like you would certainly not get anywhere but, even after a couple of weeks of following her steps, like ONLY decluttering 15 minutes a day, the 27 fling boogie, you will be amazed at how fast your house can transform. Leaving way for the decorating fun!

4) Decorating, take a deep breath. It's not that overwhelming and you don't have to do it all up either! Those gorgeous magazines and all those beautiful pics from the other ladies that have amazing blogs are just that, AMAZING! I however, do not have a house that large, that nice (my house is 96 years old!), nor do I have the financial resources that some of those ladies do, though I wish I did!! Oh, and did I mention the two tornadoes that reside here too? Yeah, they are boys so that imparts some sense of impending doom to any seriously NICE decoration!

So, here are my little tricks for decorating with toddlers, boys in general and for being able to do it without costing a pretty penny. 

A) This is the hardest step, for me, so I will list it first. Enlist your child(ren)'s help! If you're a perfectionist about the tree, or decorations in general, this will be a hard step but, well worth it. I ask my boys to decorate the bottom of the tree every year now and I do the top....ok I will admit that sometimes I may move an ornament or two after they've gone to bed but, seriously there was a hole! 

If they are tall enough, ask them to put on the window clings, some household decorations, etc. Ask their input as to where you should hang some garland or cardboard cutouts of santa's head. Even if they want to make their own tree decorations, let them and let them hang them on the tree. The holidays are all about family and for most of us with children, it's mainly about them. So, hang up the OCD hat for one or two seasons and let the kids take the reigns. It will quickly become a family tradition and seeing the joy and light in their eyes every year will be something you won't forget. (Even if there are 12 window clings on the bottom pane of their bedroom window and none in the dining room...just breathe! lol)

B) Shop for your holiday decorations AFTER the holidays. I know this is a no brainer for some of you but, seriously if you want to be able to afford a lot of decorations for not much money, shop after the holidays for things like your window clings, lights, tablecloths, napkins, etc. Some of this you will have to get as soon as you can and others, like lights, you might be able to wait a couple of weeks til the price goes down and then snatch up as many as you can. Christmas lights in various shades can come in handy for other holidays too. So, that's always a good deal. You'll also have extra for next year when you can't seem to find that one light that has the whole string burnt out!

C) Keep it simple, especially if you have young ones. You don't necessarily need anything elaborate or expensive to make your home all festive. I reuse the same things every year until they are worn down, then I recycle them and use them for other things, like crafts for the kids. Then I go out and try and find some new stuff at a good deal. 

D) Look around you, your environment, outside your house even. For thanksgiving, I simply walk outside and collect pine cones for center pieces,  leaves as they are just falling, etc. With the leaves, if you press them and then use them to decorate later. Either in a vase with a candle or by making this "leaf curtain" as my son calls it. It is hard to describe but, here is my inspiration:
      How gorgeous is that?! It's from Jeff Rudell, a paper artist genius!! Click here for the full article. It is simply gorgeous and soo cheap too! Instead of the stickers there though, I use leaves, or leaves glued to some construction paper or scrapbook paper. I've changed it up a few times now. Though for Christmas decorating, I love doing this!

Anyway, even at Halloween, think ahead and snatch up some of those cheap wee pumpkins at the local farmer's market or store (though they are ridiculously priced at a store!). Throw the pumpkins in a vase or nice bowl with the pine cones for a fall decorative theme! The point is, always keep an open eye to your own environment. There are loads of things outside and indoors that can make for free or cheap and lovely decorations, if you've got an eye for it. 

Below, I will share some of my Christmas decorations in my home, they are not anything fancy compared to some of the other ladies blog's I've seen but, the best things of all about doing a lot of decorating indoors is that a) I did it mostly for my boys, there is nothing like seeing their face as it all goes up and b) EVERYTHING you see in the pics (And I'm not posting all of them) I did for UNDER $25!!! All by picking up things after the season was over and on clearance!

Top of my microwave....that garland was falling apart, so DW and I decided that it would look great as "snow" up there. :) The Christmas tree was given to me by someone and I simply attached a giant, handmade bow to the top of it to hide my son's crabby patty treat jar in the back! lol The red, velvet premade bows, I bought something like 10 cardboard packages of them for 25 cents a piece! The vase with the ornaments, I already had. I simply attached a ribbon and bow to it. 

My boys love this part of the kitchen. I simply hang the ornaments on the valance itself. It's a heavy duty one though. So, poking the ornaments through carefully was a bit of work. Same goes for the ornament bundle at the top but, it's well worth the effort. 

I hesitate to show this because the oven and overhead fan are the last apppliances that need updating in the kitchen and it does not look so great but, I wanted to show you I was serious when I said I decorated for the kids! lol I picked up two packages of those cardboard cutouts for something like $1.50 a piece!

Again, I'm sure that this has been done till we're all purple but, the reason why I HAD to show you this: IT'S PLASTIC!!! Both the red and "Crystal" bowl! How great is that, with two little guys in the house?! I got them for free when purchasing my Christmas dishes from a wonderful lady online. The tablecloth, I picked up this year at Walmart, on clearance for $3! (A little tip, always pic up the biggest one. You can cut it to size and the leftover, depending upon the size of your table, can be an extra tablecloth or you can cut the remaining tablecloth into whatever shape you want, sew it together and make double-sided placemats. These are just some of the ideas you can do with the extra bit.)

And my littlest one's favorite part: 

This is just my kitchen though. Still night quite finished with the rest of the house the way I would like to have done just yet but, needless to say. It is all pretty similar to this...FESTIVE! :) It's all garland, bows, hanging ornaments and a few trinkets. When I get it all done, I might post a few pictures. 

There are tons of thins that you can do for free or cheap to decorate the house for any holiday. Just keep your mind open, your eyes open for the good deals and let the kids take over. They have some of the most crafty ideas sometimes. 

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you have a fantastic holiday! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How I Scrapbooked with very little money....less than $8!!

 When my oldest son was first born, there were so many things that were wrong. I didn't want to miss a moment of his life. Truth be told, we never knew if he would be with us down the road and I wasn't going to miss capturing a moment of it!

The problem was once he was well enough to stop weekly doctor's visit's, the feeding pump was reduce to 3x a day feeds instead of 24 hour feeds, we were pretty strapped for cash. Having a baby who requires a lot of medical supplies, special formula, etc can be pretty draining emotionally as well as monetarily. So, that left us with very little in the way of extra cash for the fun things in life.

I wanted desperately to do a scrapbook for my son but, with no money, I didn't want it to look cheap and terrible. So, I hesitated making it until right before his first birthday. All it took was perusing a local superstore one day and seeing an actual scrapbook on clearance for $5 and this package of embellishments. Not stickers or things like that. This package of cardstock like borders, trim, etc. It also came with a few squares of matching cardstock. None of them big enough to use as an actual page but, enough that it gave me ideas. It was on clearance for $2.50! 

I am going to post a few to show you that a) you don't need embellishments to make a great looking scrapbook. Not a single one of these has a sticker, or decoration of any kind other than what I bought in that simple package on clearance, b) that you can do it and c) it won't look too terrible either.

I simply glued the little pieces of trim or cut up cardstock onto the actual white pages that come in the scrapbook sleeves when you purchase the book or a refill. 

Even got adventerous and put a poem on a couple pages here is a part of it. It wasn't the best back then but, looking back, it wasn't too bad considering that it was my first and I had NO idea what I was doing! :)

Eventually, a few months later, I was able to afford a colored paper pack, which included frames, trim, etc and went to town with it. :)

Everything you see here was simply done by hand, with paper, a scrapbook safe pen and and a little creativity.

Scrapbooking is easy as pie too! materials can be cheap if you time it right and use what you have around the house! For glue, most glue sticks are scrapbook safe and cheap when school season rolls around. Same goes for stickers and things like that, if you again time it right. Right after the holidays you can usually find a few on clearance here and there. That is usually when I try to stock up if I have the extra cash.  For embellishments, you can sew things onto your paper, glue buttons, fabric, etc. Don't be paralyzed by fear of perfection. Just grab your pictures and go for it!

If I can do it and while it is not "professional", it isn't bad and I got quite a few compliments for the first year, than you can do it too! Happy Scrapbooking! :)

I Have to Share!

This time of year is often difficult in my house, starting just before Halloween. The week before the frightful night, there are two birthdays! My stepson's and one of my husband's nephews. So, planning presents, parties and costumes becomes all I can think about come September!

In Novemember, it's my big brother's birthday, my olest son's, my husband's other nephew and his sister-in-law. Oh and did I mention this seldom heard of holiday, called Thanksgiving?! Most of these birthdays all fall within 1 week of Thanksgiving no less!

So, by December I am at my highest stress point and am party, present and almost festivitied out (Yes, that is a word, even if it is in my own world!). Planning a get to together for friends, gifts for neighbors, close friends and even some family members can be very daunting!

I decided that this year for Holiday get together, I would have a cookie swap party. Nothing grand, just a few friends over for some girl talk, cookies and of course some drinks!

I was just desperately trying to come up with some decoration ideas when along comes Amy from Living Locurto. If you've not checked out her blog and party, decoration ideas and links to other fabulous blogs, you definitely need to! I put her on the side of this page along with several other fabulous blogs. If you've not checked her out of heard of her yet, go take a look!

Take a look at the free printables she's come up with if you're an email subscriber!

They are really cute and you can easily use them anytime of year! Enough said right? So head on over and check out some of her ideas!

For the gift giving portion of the Holiday season, I usually go all out baking treats for weeks on end! Pre-making and freezing them as needed. I was still on the fence about what to make, if I should bake or buy and if I buy, what to buy! Another GREAT blog to the rescue. If you've been in blogland for some time now, you'll have probably come across not only Amy but the wonderful ladies of How Does She?.

Another one of my favorite blogs, there is always something there of interest. Today was no exception, they passed on what I have to say is so far my favorite post of this month! Their 30 Neighbor Gift Ideas was not only a great source of inspiration but, witty on top of that! The perfect mix, at least for me!

I'd share some pics but, there are 30 ideas there and I wouldn't begin to know what to choose to post! Just take my word for it and head over there and check out that post!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My favorite snack

I have been under the weather the last few days and don't feel like eating a whole lot. Nor do I feel like making a whole three course meal for myself when I finally get hungry. So, I'm sure we've all done this at one time or another but, I had to share just in case!

This is a very cheap, albeit really not healthy exactly but, good in a pinch for a snack. It's warm, and crunchy. Yet harbors a warm, delicate moist inside and is salty yet packed with flavor if you add a few extra things during the making of it. I never have left overs in my house! You can do his with zucchini as well if you happen to have a few extra's lying around

My version of: Fried Eggplant

Crushed, saltine crackers
1 eggplant

Simply cut the ends off of your eggplant.
Peel the skin off of it.

Pour enough oil in the pan to cover at least an inch, preferably a bit more. Turn the oil up to at least med high heat.

Crush your crackers. Either the old fashioned way by putting a bunch of crackers in a baggy and then crushing them. Or the fast, easy way by pulsing them in a food processor. If you go by my mother that is all you need but, I like to add some garlic salt to the crushed crackers. Then just mix it up a bit.

Crack open some eggs and give them a quick mix to make sure they're blended well.

In case you can't tell, there really is no magic number of how many crackers you need or how many eggs you'll need. It depends on the size of the eggplant really. You'll most likely use a minimum of 4 eggs and a minimum of 1 package of crackers. Nothing less than this or you'll be struggling to coat and cover your eggplant.

Slice your eggplant. You can do it in thinly or thicker. Your preference! Coat the eggplant in your eggs, then the cracker, garlic salt mix. Make sure to coat the slices thoroughly.

Then place into hot oil. You can check the oil temp with a wooden toothpick, when it begins to boil around it, you know the oil is ready. Simply cook til golden brown and flip. Once golden on both sides remove to a paper towel covered plate, to absorb the oil. It really only takes a few minutes.

This is what you get! Look at them, crunchy on the outside, soft, delicate and moist on the inside. The garlic salt, gives you just enough flavor on top of it all!! I've even been known to season with a bit of salt AND pepper after removing to the paper towel. Hmmm soo good! :) So very cheap to make too! Especially when you get them for free from neighbors, well meaning family members or best of all a local farmer's market!

Again, if you try it, let me know if you like it! :)

Auntie Em’s Chunky, Tailgating Chili

When I first started cooking some….um, ehm, all those years ago as a young child. My mother’s boyfriend at the time drilled into my head you HAVE to follow the recipe! Always follow the recipe! So, for the better part of…ehm, some more years, I did just that! Always following the recipe! If it called for something that I didn’t like or one of the boys couldn’t have, I didn’t make it!

Then one day, like someone smacking me upside the head with a 2×4, which is often times what it takes, it dawned on me, I could adapt any recipe to anything I wanted it to be! I’m sure that most anyone would say “well duh”! It’s just one of those things though that I think often times get overlooked and not thought about a lot until you have one of those prized “AHA” moments.

Anyway, I share this recipe for several reasons. One, it is quite cheap to make and can quite literally feed an ARMY! Two, it is easily adaptable to any sized family, or for adding less or more of an ingredient, which is always nice! Three, because you can easily put it together in just a couple of hours or let it simmer all day in the crockpot and it tastes delicious either way. Though I prefer a longer simmer, to let all the flavors marry. And finally for reason four, the things you can do with the leftovers can carry on for days! Now, before I share though, keep in mind that this will quite literally fill a larger sized crockpot! Oh and have I mentioned that it is FANTASTIC football food?! Cause it is!

If the directions look long, just know that I have rambled or explained something I felt was important. Scary thought, I know! ;)

My Chunky, Tailgating Chili


3 lbs of browned, seasoned, and drained, ground turkey

2 cps each of 3 different kinds of uncooked beans (I use a black bean, kidney bean and navy bean, purely because it is just pretty!)

5 cobs of sweet corn (again you can use canned but, it requires a bit more and can be a bit pricier, depending upon the season)

4 cups of cooked brown rice

5 cloves of garlic….or more if you LOVE garlic as my family does.

1 whole medium red & green peppers, diced You can use jalapeƱos here but, since I still have young boys, we keep the spice to a low. Just remember, if you use jalapeƱos, you obviously don’t need 2 of them! Sometimes one, if it is spicy enough is good.

1 whole medium onion (Or if you are allergic to them as I am….I KNOW, weird allergy to have isn’t it? Anyway, you can use dehydratd onions. The amount then is solely at your discretion).

1 large can of crushed tomatoes

2 small cans of tomato juice

2 packages of taco seasoning (your preference of how hot or mild)

two or more kinds of cheese

garlic salt & pepper to taste


First off, I know this goes without saying but, if you have 2 ADHD boys running around your house, every single step needs to be thought out! So, the night before you want to make this, remember to rehydrate your beans. It is fairly easy to fill a bowl or three with water and dump in 2 cups each of your beans and let sit while you get some sleep! When you’re ready the next day, be sure to drain and rinse your beans. If you didn’t set them out the night before, keep in mind that there is usually a “quick” way to do it printed on the package, this usually takes about an hour depending upon the bean. So, make sure that you alot the time to do that.

Next part is a bit of work but, trust me, it’s well worth it! You need to cut the corn off of 5 cobs of sweet corn. Why sweet corn? I thought you’d never ask! In the middle of this spicy, chunky chili, when you bite into this almost crunchy bit of corn and this juicy, sweet liquid explodes in the middle of that chili, you will understand why sweet corn is very important. You can use regular, you just won’t get that amazing moment. (Yes, I LOVE my food! lol)

While you’re doing the corn, you might as well chop up your green & red peppers, as well as your onion and garlic as well. There is no right or wrong way to chop them up really. You can make them as small as you want. I prefer my guys to have those chunky bits, so I almost cube mine but, if you want to hide some of the onions or peppers, make them smaller.

This is where you would brown up the ground turkey. I was taught and am a FIRM believer in seasoning the layers. Nothing is as good unless each layer is seasoned. So, here in the browning stage, you would thrown in a bit of your garlic, some of your red and green peppers, salt and pepper as well. Once your done, if there is any grease, which with turkey there is usually not too much, you need to drain it.

Now, you simply add all your ingredients, except the cheese and rice into your crockpot. Keep in mind though that this will be nice and THICK when done. So, if you want it more like a soupy chili, you will need to add more tomato sauce, so keep that in mind when buying them. I don’t though because I can use the leftovers for something fabulous too! Anyway, you can put almost everything in, remembering to salt and pepper it again. I use garlic salt because it brings out the garlic that you’ve used and if you’re going to use salt, lets try to make it less salt and more flavor! Don’t be afraid to be generous here, except with the salt.

Leave in your crockpot for as long as you want. If it will be 6 – 8 hours, leave it on low. If it will be a short time, then put it on high to get all those flavors to blend together well.

Right before you’re done, cook your brown rice up. Shouldn’t take long. Then mix in your rice when it’s done.

Spoon into a bowl, add your cheeses. I usually add a little pre shredded Colby-Monterrey jack and some spaghetti kind of mozzerella into it and serve to hungry football lovers!

*LEFTOVERS: You can freeze the leftovers. You will have plenty of leftovers because, this is made for men and teenage boys who, as we all know, have never ending black holes where their mouths should be, it was made to fill them up with just one bowl!

*So, if your family has a game night or you want a great last minute snack for company or Movie night, you simply defrost your little baggy. Stop at the store and pick up some nacho chips (or make your own) and some Velveeta. You can do store brand but, it will need to have a bit of milk or water added into it, as they tend to be a bit thick. Put both into a bowl and you have a fantastic nacho dip without having to actually do the work!

*Another thing that I’ve done with it, since leftovers tend to be a bit drier and this is a THICK chili, I’ve even lightly buttered and toasted hamburger buns and loaded them, generously, with the chili mix. The teenagers loved this a lot too. Anything that required the use of hands only seems to delight them more often than not!

*If you follow my recipe, it will be a thick chili. If you want to reheat it, you will need to add a little bit of tomato sauce or water. JUST A LITTLE though! We do this all the time and throw in our cheese and it never tastes like the next day!

Hope that this fills your tailgaters as much as it does mine and I hope that anyone that tries this, loves it!

Hello Bloggers. My first post! :)

Hello all! This is a new thing for me, blogging that is. I have followed loads of blogs but, never considered doing one of my own. A friend kind of gave me a friendly nudge…Ok, it was more of a shove really!

I should start out saying that I love do it yourself anything….crafts, recipes, re-purposing, etc. Especially with the ways things are in the economy and the gas prices on the rise yet again. As a stay at home mom and homeschooling mother of 2 special needs boys, I have learned how to stretch a buck. I know that anything you can do yourself often times is a heck of a lot cheaper. There is something to be said for buying things for the ease of it but, when your pennies are pinched, you have to “make the best of it”! Aren’t I just too cute?! lol

I guess that should be your first warning, as a mother of two boys, one 5 and one 2, my sense of humor is seriously either warped or just plain sad!

Anyway, my one girlfriend, the one who pushed me into this really, says that there are great blogs out there (and she is right, I’m addicted to quite a few!) but there aren’t a lot that can deliver a bit more recipes or crafts for more of the blue collar crowd. You know us types, the ones who will most likely never be the best dressed. Lets face it, most moms aren’t anyway but, us blue collar ladies, we spend out money on the children first, the bills, the groceries, etc. Often not even thinking of ourselves until we have to go somewhere nice and suddenly realize that all your nice blouses, shirts, Ts all have either breast milk, baby regurgitation, grease stains, or your son’s juice on the front of them!

So, with a bit of trepidation I step into the blogging world, a bit intimidated by the masses of GREAT craft and recipe bloggers out there!