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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Zucchini Bread, Muffins, Casserole, Soup, Stew, etc.

Zucchini is both a blessing and a curse--low calorie, grows plentifully, needs help to taste good sometimes, grows plentifully....**yep that's in there twice--once for blessing, once for curse.

We are trying really hard this year to love veggies. Eating them fresh from the garden makes me feel like I'm doing something good for my body, and my family. Then by the time the third freshly picked zucchini comes in from the day's harvest--I'm kind of over it.

What do you do this much zucchini? Here's a few delicious recipes we've tried and have loved (ok, most of us have at least liked enough not to spit it back out onto the plate). Really these are delicious ways to use your plentiful harvest. Enjoy!

Zucchini Corn Casserole from Bec at
Aunt Fanny's Bake from the Lion House and a million other places (Click Here for Recipe)
Lemon Zucchini Cookies from Betty Crocker
Minestrone soup from me at Time Over Things
Kung Pao Chicken (spicy) from Copycat Panda Express recipe or if you want a really easy recipe for this you can do what I do...cheat. I buy my sauce from the local Asian market or grocery store, and add it to my chopped veggies that I have from the garden, add diced, cooked chicken. I cook all this together in a large skillet for 8-10 minutes and serve with thin noodles or brown rice.

We tried this today...and doubled the recipe. I froze a batch and the other batch is tomorrow's breakfast!

Zucchini Banana Chocolate Muffins from The Ambitious Kitchen
  1. 1 banana, mashed
  2. 1/4 cup sugar
  3. 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  4. 1/3 cup Greek yogurt, plain (**I just used vanilla yogurt)
  5. 1 cup zucchini, shredded and squeezed dry
  6. 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  8. 2/3 cup milk, non fat or milk of choice
  9. 1 1/2 cups flour
  10. 1 tsp. baking soda
  11. 1 tsp. baking powder
  12. 1/4 tsp. salt
  13. 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Line a muffin tin with liners and spray with cooking spray. I recommend using aluminum foil liners or no liners at all. Just spray the tins.
  3. In a bowl, add banana, sugar and egg. mix until well combined. Add yogurt, zucchini, vanilla and cinnamon; mix until combined. Stir in the milk.
  4. Add the flour baking soda, baking powder and salt to batter; and just mix until combined. Do not over mix!
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Evenly fill muffin tins with batter. Bake in oven for 15 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins come out clean. Let muffins cool for 10 minutes in pan and place onto a cooling rack.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Online Garage Sale

In an effort to help de-clutter a few spaces we have several darling, wonderful, amazing items that need a new home. Please check out the pictures below and if you want something please email ( or text or call (801-244-1801). We are taking reasonable offers on all items.

 Boy's suit pants and vest, size 7/8; $5
 small trunk $10
 My size Elmo $5
 Pillow $3
 We have two of these tables, 20 inches in diameter $5 for both

 Sailboat (removable letter D) $8
 Plant $3; wicker magazine stand $3; clock-sold

Lamp with green, red and gold $5

 Hanging lights in shape of American Flag $5-yes, it works

 Bathtub picture $3
 picture $3
 Plate $3
 small Chinese pot (3 inches) $3
 wooden giraffe $2
 Spoon rack $5
 Rose picture $3
 Folding sheet music stand $8
 Musical instrument holder $8

 Cross stitch of Victorian Houses $10

  Lap desk $5
 We have 2 high chairs that convert into swings $25 each or both for $40

 Metal wall decor with 4 battery operated votive candles $15; 9 inches wide 3 feet long
 ABC cross stitch $10
 Rose tapestry 68 inches tall 25 inches across $25

HP laptop bag $10-great conditon

 Bag $3

 Like new, twin pop up trundle bed $100

 Various frames $1 each
 Glass curved frame $1
 3 hand painted flower pictures by KD Cooney $15 for set
 Glass shelf with all hardware $3
 Fall leaves table runner $2
 Red urn $8
We have 2 of these Tot Spot chairs $5 each; includes carrying bags

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Molten Lava Cake (crockpot)

Our summer has gone way too fast! Here's an easy way to have a delicious treat and not heat up the house. It's chocolatey goodness will make you come back for more~Guaranteed!

Molten Lava Cake
1 pkg chocolate cake mix
1 pkg (16 oz) chocolate chips
1 pkg. (4 serving size) Instant chocolate pudding
1 c. water
4 eggs
3/4 c. oil
2 c. sour cream (light is fine)

Put all ingredients in mixer, and mix together until combined. Put mixture into sprayed, or lined, crock pot. Bake 6-8 hours on low. Serve with Vanilla Bean (or your favorite) ice cream. We also add crushed chocolate cookies and chocolate syrup to the top of the cake after it's cooked and right before serving.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Vacation Perks #2-Big Family Vacation, Big Price Tag??

We flew our family and spent 5 days in San Diego and did everything we wanted to do, including a lot of eating out, transportation, souvenirs and site seeing and spent $4,700. That's is about $100 per person, per day for EVERYTHING. How did I do it? We did save for a year, and the kids were part of the planning and saving too.

Traveling is great. Traveling with a small family I am sure is wonderful--one hotel room, smaller car to rent, smaller dining bills. Traveling with a big family requires a bit of planning and more money. Here's a few simple ideas in the planning and execution of making some BIG memories.

Making Money

1.  Let your money work for you. If you have a credit card that you use Responsibly (meaning you pay if off EVERY month) then use it to earn travel points. We use a card that gives us 5% back on travel --I only put groceries and medical costs on this card because I have those amounts in my budget to spend. Then I pay it off monthly. It earned us some cash back.

Also many travel oriented credit cards allow one checked bag for free since you are a credit card member. We saved $350 in travel fees with our card.

2. Siphon your budget. If you are lucky enough to have a "slush" fund consider taking a part of it and put it directly into your savings account. A little bit each month will help in the long run.

3. Sell your stuff. We all have stuff that we don't use, don't need, don't want, but sometimes getting up the energy to organize it and get rid of it is overwhelming. Could have a family garage sale, partner up with some family members or friends and host a big sale so everyone helps with the set-up, organization, clean-up. Or you can likely find (or start) a Facebook page with online yard sales in your area. This is a great way to get rid of a little bit at a time. This suggestion comes with the caution that since you are meeting strangers to exchange your stuff for their money, you go with a friend and meet in a public place for the sale. Local papers also offer online ads you can place for free.

4. Travel off-season. It's my favorite way to see places, without huge crowds. We went the week before summer season officially started, the lines were short, and the most we waited was 15 minutes for a ride or to see an animal or attraction.  The staff told us we were lucky because lines were often 2 hours during the summer.

Saving Money
1. Join e-clubs. Southwest, Delta, Jet Blue and many other airlines has specials for their email club members. Usually you get an email with a "heads up" about early ticket sales too. A few of them even have a survey program where you can earn cash towards airfare.

Also many big tourist attractions have deals, discounts and coupons on their websites. And group discounts may work in your favor!

2. Use search engines to find discounts. Visit your destination's travel and tourism page (for example you can Google "San Diego tourism") and there are links for things to do, coupons, lists for restaurants, etc. Also,, Hotwire,com, and many others can help you find cheap hotels. If you know where you want to stay you can often negotiate directly with the hotel. Get Away Today, and other online planning websites can also help a lot, especially in getting discount tickets to local attractions, and having the ability to compare hotels side by side.

3. Buy an "Entertainment" book, or check out your local Costco or Sam's Club. Members of these organizations often get discounts with their annual membership.

4. Plan your day. I know, you're on vacation, however a little bit of planning can save money. Check to see what local, free events are going on during your vacation. Some days entrance fees to some attractions are lower than other days.

5. Get a room...with a fridge, or pack extra snacks in your luggage. We had both, and it saved us money at the beach not having to buy treats. You can also buy fresh stuff at a local market and store it in your fridge so you don't have to eat out all the time. Also look for a hotel with a breakfast included. We did this too, and it was great!

6. Have a limit on souvenirs-both in number and cost. I know everything is so cute, and you've just had this amazing experience you want to remember forever. This $20 stuffed animal will help us remember...or not. I allowed my children the opportunity to earn extra money so they could pay for their own souvenirs. They were not allowed to purchase the first thing they saw. I suggested they wait and see if they really wanted it, and if they did we went back. I also took lots of pictures to make into books later.

7. Plan to take all the basics you'll need. I forgot aloe and didn't have a back up sunscreen. When going to a sunny vacation spot these are a must. Yes you can buy them on vacation, but I guarantee you'll spend a lot more than you will at home. Plan for "downtime" and bring cards, games or books to keep the kids happy, and you'll be happy.

8. Check out local transportation options. We love metros, subways, trains, etc. We used a hotel with a free shuttle to local attractions, and used the public transportation system ($5 per person, per day) which saved us renting a car (would have been $500 for the week, cuz we'd need a van), and we didn't have to pay parking fees which saved us more money.

Vacation time is a great way to reconnect and strengthen family bonds. A little bit of pre-planning will go a long way to achieving a fun, memorable, affordable family vacation.

Monday, June 30, 2014

July Food Menu

I've had a bunch of requests for Meal Ideas, so for all my friends who've been's what's for dinner at our house in July. And I'm not gonna lie, I am a slacker when it comes to summer time. I want to be out playing, not inside cooking. The grill and crock pot become my best friends during these months--just sayin'.

Chili Dogs
Shish Kabobs (click here for easy ideas; I just use whatever veggies I have coming out of the garden, and marinate my beef cubes in 1/4 c. olive oil, 1 Tbsp Rosemary, salt & pepper to taste, and 2 Tbsp. of Red Wine Vinegar or Red Cooking wine; I marinade my chicken in 1/2 c. lemon juice, 1/4 c. oil and rosemary, oregano and basil)
Grilled Tuna Sandwiches (basically a tuna sandwich topped with sliced cheese and tomato (opt) and put under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until cheese is bubbly)
General Tso's Chicken (crock pot) I've never tried this recipe, but it is what's on the menu--I'm always looking to try new things. Check out the recipe here.
Enchiladas- another good way to use up things from the garden. I always double the recipe and freeze one pan for later. If you don't have a favorite recipe check out this one.
Grilled chicken and pineapple--slice the pineapple into rings and throw it on the grill before your raw meat--or on an upper grill rack. I cook extra chicken too for later in the week.
Veggie and Chicken Pasta-cook pasta according to directions, add your choice of veggies and the extra chicken from your grilled chicken meal and dinner is done.
Crock Pot Chile Verde- you can make this not too spicy for kids who are wondering "what is this green stuff?" I love spicy food, so my kids are used to eating it. However, when they were little they didn't always eat it--so have a few PBJs on the side if needed. I don't have a recipe, I just throw stuff in--but here's a good one you may want to try.
Sloppy Joe's
Mozzarella Meatballs and buttered pasta
Spaghetti Pie-again my version is spicier than most, but here is a basic recipe. Make one and freeze one for later.
Tomato basil soup and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches
Chicken strips (I purchase the oven ready variety, but you can certainly make your own)
Chicken cordon blue pasta (Alfredo sauce, chopped ham, cooked & diced chicken, chopped onion, pepper, basil and oregano make a great sauce. Heat all ingredients together and throw over cooked pasta)
Olive Garden soup (I know weird to have soup when it's hot outside, but it's filling and uses up garden veggies so I roll with it.) Recipe here.
Summer Shrimp Pasta
Pad Thai
Chicken Pillow
Hamburger Stew (crock pot)

If you need other ideas for meals, just type "Meal Time" or "Meal Ideas" into the search bar on the homepage of my blog!

I try to keep lunches around here simple too--simple enough the kids can make them. I don't like to use a lot canned or frozen food to feed them, but during the busy times here's how we roll: canned ravioli, sandwiches, pita pocket sandwiches, bean & cheese burritos ("homemade" with canned beans and sliced cheese in a tortilla and warmed), chicken nuggets, salad and leftover chicken, soup, mac & cheese, left overs, cereal, pb & j or pb & honey. It's pretty simple around here cuz we'd all rather be out playing in the water, camping, shopping, discovering and exploring, than heating up the house.

Enjoy Summer!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Most Awesome Vacation Perks -#1 Food

We are home from our first  vacation with 5 kids, on an airplane, in 2 hotel rooms, for an awesome week of fun, sun, surf, and great food. This was our favorite restaurant. It's called Barra Barra in Old Town San Diego.

Not only is the food very good, kids under 10 eat FREE EVERY DAY with the purchase of an adult meal! (One kid meal per one adult meal purchased). This little surprise was a huge adrenaline rush for me. It was so nice not to have to eat fast food every day to save our budget. Adult meals were reasonably priced $10-15, and the portions are large. Finally having a large family paid off in the financial world!

D. fell 'in love' with the refried black bean dip--literally polishing off 3 bowls by herself. So now we've been spoiled with free food, and wouldn't you know there's a website to help you figure out what kids meals are free, and when. Kids Meal Deals offers lists of local kids meals--so if you are going on vacation simply enter your vacation zip code and the list of restaurants offering free meals for kids will pop up. If you're at home, you can still take advantage of this website by entering your home zip code. The list does come with one disclaimer: call the restaurant to make sure the deals are still active.

Either way, this is a great way to save money at home or on the go. We loved our vacation and as soon as I finish the wash, I will post some pics and tips on family vacations on the cheap, including special tips for those of us with large families.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Yard Re-do #4 and Final

Now your garden is one step further to your end result. Congrats! You've planned, prepared and planted and now you can sit back and enjoy....almost.

Once you've planted everything, be sure to lay down 3 inches of mulch/compost to feed the plants and help prevent weeds. I use Oquirrh Mountain Compost and have for nearly 15 years. I love it. You can learn more about it here!

Remember like anything worth keeping, you have to maintain your space. 

Fertilize regularly (every 4 weeks on average)
Check your watering system to make sure plants aren't dry
 Dead head-snip the dried out heads on your flowers to help them grow new blossoms.