Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Download an mp3 file on a Samsung Galaxy S4

When I first got my phone which is a Samsung Galaxy S4, I downloaded some mp3s from a website but then later forgot how I did it. When I did a search for "how to download mp3s from a website on my Android" or "on my Samsung Galaxy S4," all I could find was advice to download apps to search for music.

Not every mp3 is a popular song you can find on a music app or even a song at all. Sometimes an mp3 is simply a link on a website for a ringtone or other audio file. In my case, it was a recording that a personal friend had made for me. I didn't want to "stream" it when I was away from home and use too much data on my smart phone plan so downloading the file was a must. There was a podcast on iTunes available, but my phone is an Android.

Everything I read made it sound like you couldn't download an mp3 file directly from a website. I finally figured out how to do it so I decided to write a quick post which might be of help to someone else with the same dilemma. It's actually quite simple...

Here's how:

1. Click on the little world icon on your phone to access the browser that came with your phone.

Notice the world icon on the upper left

2. Go to the website with the mp3 link. I am assuming you know how to find a website which is how you found the mp3 you wanted.

3. "Click" on the link by touching your screen, and you should see two options: One for an audio player (to stream the file) and one called "downloads." If you accidentally "long click" and get a menu, select "open in new window." You should then see the two icons.

4. Click on "downloads." The download icon on my phone was black with a green arrow on it and said, you guessed it, "downloads!"

5. Once the mp3 file finishes, you can access it and listen to it by clicking on the downloads icon on your phone's desktop.

Example download icons.

I know this sounds ridiculously easy, but I had recently switched to a Firefox browser on my phone, and had been using that instead of the default browser. When I did try it using the correct browser, I was "long clicking," and then selecting the wrong option. I'm no "techie," folks, but I am so glad I finally figured out how to download mp3s from websites on my smart phone.

Keywords: download mp3 from a website, how do I download mp3s on my Android phone, how do I download mp3s on my Samsung S4, download mp3 file on my phone, how to download a ringtone, how to download a podcast

Friday, October 25, 2013

Walking for Exercise

Haven't Exercised in a While? Start Walking!

I have recently started exercising regularly, and it has been much easier than I thought it would be. In fact, I may even be addicted to it! I am still in the early stages of my journey, but I am already seeing great results and learning a lot about fitness. I think the key to my success has been doing things gradually. I started with walking...

About Me

My past exercise experience includes an aerobics class in college and later walking/light jogging on a treadmill for 20 minutes at an office gym. That was years ago. Life flies by and priorities change during different seasons of life. As a mom of six who is over 40 and hasn't done any regular exercise program in several years, I have basically started from scratch. I'm not really overweight, but I would like to lose at least ten pounds and get more toned. More importantly, I love having more energy! Since I started walking briskly six days a week, I have a new spring in my step and have already lost inches! And I only started three weeks ago! I have added in some other stuff in the last few days, but the improvements had already happened just from the walking! I cannot stress enough that weight loss is not my primary goal. Even if I knew I would lose no weight at all, the much needed energy and other health benefits alone would make continuing to exercise worth while.

Just About Anyone Can and Should Walk

If for some reason, I quit jogging and doing other exercises after accomplishing my fitness goals, I  plan to still continue the daily walks. My 61 year old aunt walks 4 or 5 miles every day, and my grandfather was walking 5 miles a day after a hip replacement at age 80. Regardless of whether or not you go any further with your exercise program, aim to make walking a permanent part of your lifestyle.

Women used to have to walk long distances to get clean water and still do in some places. We are designed to exercise more than just walking through the grocery store or from the car to our office cubicle. Recent research suggests that walking 10,000 steps a day is ideal which adds up to about five miles. That goal will be easier to accomplish by adding a long walk to your usual daily activities.

Planning Your Walks

Walking need not cost money or a take up a lot of time. Just put on your most comfortable shoes and go for a walk. This can be in your neighborhood or you can drive to a park with a trail or even go to a mall. There is safety in numbers so if you don't have a family member or neighbor to walk with, a crowded public park or indoor mall will be safer than a deserted street or trail. My husband and our large dog are my bodyguards of choice. When my husband isn't available, a friend and I walk with the dog in a well populated public place. Chatting with a friend or family member makes the time go by much faster on the walk.

Walk at least a mile a day from the start. Just about anyone can walk that far, but be sure to walk briskly rather than just a casual stroll. If you're like me, you don't have all day to walk, anyway so get moving and get it done. Aim to walk briskly at least five days a week. There is really no limit on walking, but at least one full rest day each week will become necessary if you ever progress into jogging. You can also keep track of minutes instead of miles and aim to walk for 20 to 45 minutes. Hopefully, you'll have time to walk two or three miles which will take 30 minutes to an hour depending on your speed. Your main goal in the beginning is just establishing a habit. Any walk is a good walk!


You might need a little bit of motivation at first while you are establishing the habit. Read articles on the many benefits of walking. Think about it and get excited about it! Arranging to meet a friend to walk with will ensure you will show up, because you know someone will be somewhere waiting for you.

You could also mention on your social networking websites that you have started walking so that you will feel accountable. It can be fun to post your mileage on Facebook or Twitter when you get back from your walk. You'll be pleasantly surprised when you read the comments and find out that many of your friends are already working out. Others who may not be exercising at the moment will probably find it motivating. I prefer to think of those types of statuses as "walking accountability posts" instead of "exercise brag posts." Throw in a witty comment, anecdote, or motivational saying to keep your posts interesting.

If you aren't into social networking, perhaps you have a friend or family member you can text or call to report your progress. Charity walk/runs are happening all of the time so maybe you could sign up for one in your area and train for it. You may even meet some new walking partners at the event.

Weight Loss 

Don't expect immediate weight loss from walking. If you are extremely overweight, you might start losing right away, though, since the more you weigh, the more calories you burn from walking. Your goal right now is to establish a habit and build endurance and stamina. I've never been one for strict diets, but be sure you aren't eating more calories to reward yourself for a little bit of walking. Most people will automatically start eating a little better after starting an exercise program rather than waste the calorie burning benefits. I have not made any major changes in my eating, but I'm trying to drink extra water and make other healthy choices to get the maximum benefits from my exercise efforts.

If weight loss is an immediate priority for you, start drinking more water and cutting out sweets. Eat "clean," which means cooking with real food ingredients rather than heavily processed foods. Try not to eat any carbs after 4 p.m. and have nothing but plain water after 6 p.m. I still order the occasional pizza, but I try to be moderate. I read somewhere that weight is eighty to ninety percent related to your diet and only ten to twenty percent related to your activity levels. Don't let that discourage you though, because it will all come together in time. Exercise can replace junk food or over eating as your new stress reliever. Over time, walking usually does promote weight loss.

After You've Been Walking for a Week or Two...

Once the walking becomes a habit and gets easier, you might feel ready to take things to the next level. Jogging or running burns more calories and can be fun if you ease into it. A future post will be about starting a C25K jogging program which starts out gradually by inserting short jogs into your walks. "Couch to 5K" is much easier when you start with brisk walking and perhaps a few squats instead of actually starting from the couch. At the time of this post, I am in my first week of a nine week C25K plan, meaning I am now both walking and jogging! My current plan is doing the C25K workout three times a week while going for regular walks or doing other exercises on the non jogging days. When I first started walking, I never thought I would jog or run other than those occasional short sprints to catch a plane or keep a toddler out of harms way. Never say never...

   Click here for my Couch to 5K update!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bread Machine Bread Bowls for Two

I love the clam chowder they sell at Pier 39 in San Francisco. I usually don't actually eat the bread bowl, though, since I'm not a fan of sourdough bread. 

The crusty white bread bowls I made the other night were NOT sourdough and were so good, I started eating mine without stopping to take a picture first. The only thing missing was the cool ocean breeze...and the seals...and the street performers...and...well, you get the picture.

But I will definitely be making these delicious bread bowls again! Here are the ingredients:

1 cup plus one tbsp water
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp quick active dry yeast
1 egg
(You will also need two empty 6 1/2 ounce tin cans--think tuna or clam cans, and a little oil or cooking spray)

Add all ingredients except for the tin cans and oil to bread machine according to manufacturer instructions. Set bread machine to dough cycle.

When dough cycle is complete, divide dough in half.

Enclose each tin can in dough and place both dough balls on greased cookie sheet. Allow to rise a little while oven preheats to 375. 

Bake on cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes or until browned and crunchy. Carefully cut out an opening at the top of each bread bowl with a bread knife or other serrated knife. Gently ease out the cans using a knife or tongs. Check to make sure the inside of the bowls are not still doughy.

Fill with soup or chili. 

You can replace the bread lids after you put the soup in...


Butter both lids, secretly eat them as biscuits, and hope nobody misses theirs. I'm not saying I did that or anything...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What to do with Hatch Green Chiles

Hatch, New chile capital of the world.

Once upon a time, green chile connoisseurs like my in-laws had to make a pilgrimage to New Mexico in August to get Hatch green chiles. It's that wonderful time of year again, and these days you can smell the aroma of Hatch chiles roasting outside of participating grocery stores across America.

When you get home with your twenty dollar or so box of freshly roasted green chiles, you will want to:

1. Peel off the blackened skin and remove the seeds from each chile. Ideally, you will do this under running water. Some people wear gloves to do this.

2. Place 4-8 of the chiles in a small freezer bag. Repeat this process...ABOUT EIGHTEEN TIMES until they are all bagged. Still with me? This is not a project for the lazy, but it is so nice to have these packets in the freezer year round.

Now that you have your chiles portioned out and stored in the freezer, you can use them in omelets, salsas, stews, and best of all, "chile verde."

Here's my husband's latest variation of his famous chile verde aka "green chile." He comes from a New Mexican family that has been making green chile for generations so you can rest assured that this recipe is as authentic as it is delicious...


1 pound pork, cut into small cubes
1 pound beef, cut into small cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
3 tbsp oil
2 cups chopped roasted green chiles
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp pepper.
splash of lime juice (from 1/2 of a fresh lime)

In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onions for about five minutes or so. Add meat cubes, and cook, stirring for another five minutes until meat loses its pink color. Sprinkle flour over the meat and onions. Increase the heat slightly, and cook the meat, stirring often until it is browned and onions are golden. Stir in the cumin, garlic, pepper, and chiles, mixing well. Slowly add the chicken broth and stir to incorporate. Lower heat and simmer covered until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally, for about two hours.

New Mexican Style Chile Verde

Serve with warm flour tortillas...

Green Chile Burrito

I like mine sprinkled with cheese and rolled into a burrito.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Keeping Young Children Busy during Church or Sports Practice

To keep little people busy away from home, I keep certain items in the back of my car. These are different items than whatever toys they might bring along to play with while riding in the car. The special items in the back are activities to keep them busy at certain destinations. We keep this stuff in the car for a few reasons:

1. Since they don't play with them anywhere else, they are excited to get them out. Novelty is key sometimes when keeping kids entertained.

2. I like to get out of the house quickly without having to pack much.

3. I'd rather not have to hand over my cell phone or an ink pen to a toddler out of desperation. 

When we arrive at church, I grab these quiet toys from the back of the car and put them in my purse to pull out one by one when my toddler gets bored. He usually doesn't need them until about 45 minutes into the service so he is gradually learning to sit still and listen for longer periods...

While we are watching "Spider Man" do karate, my girls keep busy with giant coloring pages and markers. I just bought some new coloring supplies today. Hello Kitty is always a favorite...

These few items don't take up a lot of space so I still have plenty of room for groceries and a stroller. The toddler toys especially are almost as important as the diapers, wipes, and change of clothes that I like to keep somewhere in the vehicle at all times. A little bit of preparedness can make leaving the house with several children virtually stress free. Don't forget to change up the items from time to time to keep things interesting.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Saving Money on Groceries: My Favorite Aldi Products

The first time I visited an Aldi, I was a little bit irritated that they charge a quarter for the use of the shopping cart and a few cents each for grocery bags. I also assumed that their products were inferior generics. I couldn't have been more wrong!

For one thing, you get the quarter back when you return the cart, or as they call it here, the "buggy." Ugh! (Even after six years in Texas, that still sounds weird to me.) I don't normally carry much cash, but now that I'm used to shopping at Aldi, I make sure I always have at least one quarter in the center console of my car. Paying six or ten cents for each shopping bag is no big deal since you are saving tons of money on groceries. Sometimes I keep a few bags in the back of my car so I can bring my own.

The great thing about Aldi is that common staple items are cheaper yet often superior in taste to national brands. Most of the products you'll find at Aldi are Aldi's own brands, but they also have a few random name brand items at discounted prices. The fact that the store is small and doesn't have a lot of selection is actually a plus because you can get in and out quickly. Unless I am making something exotic, Aldi usually has everything I need. In the middle of the store, there are seasonal items and toys that they rotate in so you never know what fun non food items they might have on special.

Here is a list of my current favorite Aldi products:

Frozen USDA choice sirloin steaks
Frozen Shrimp
Vanilla Almond Milk
Imported German Chocolate
Tortilla Chips (made from organic blue corn)
Parmesan cheese
Spaghetti sauce
Tuna packets
Ice Cream
Frozen Fruit
Whole Grain White Bread with no High Fructose Corn Syrup
Natural Peanut Butter (90 percent peanuts and no refined sugar or hydrogenated oils)
Trail Mix
All Natural Granola Cereal
Protein bar in checkout that tastes a Kit Kat
Diapers and Wipes
Laundry Detergent

I don't do all of my shopping at Aldi since I'm not always up for bagging my own groceries with several little ones in tow, and they don't have a huge selection of meat and produce. Since the shopping carts are stuck together until you pay to unhook the one on the outside end, it can be hard to find one with a working child safety strap. Another negative is that they sometimes expect you to switch to a different cart at the register which is also inconvenient when shopping with a baby.  Those certain Aldi items that I love keep me coming back, though. Bagging my own groceries and dealing with the other inconveniences is more manageable on those smaller in-between shopping trips.

Related Post: Saving Money Shopping at Mexican Grocery Stores.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

100 Calorie Vanilla Almond Frappe

Lately, I am all about making fast frappes in the blender using instant coffee. This particular frappe is non-dairy, all natural, and only 100 calories. Here's the simple recipe:

1 cup All-Natural Vanilla Almond Milk (I buy mine at Aldi)
1 scant tablespoon instant coffee granules
3-4 ice cubes
a pinch of salt (optional to reduce foam)

Blend all ingredients for about 60 seconds and enjoy! The store bought vanilla almond milk I use contains cane juice so it is already sweetened, yet it still has less calories than whole milk which would need an additional sweetener. Almond milk has a delicious nutty flavor and can be easier on the stomach than milk--especially on days when I end up drinking two of these in the course of the day. I'm not a vegan or anything, but some of us have our limits when it comes to guzzling too much milk. The calorie savings and easy digestibility make this creamy cold coffee drink a win win! These are so good, I've been known to have a decaf version for dessert before bed!

To make this into a complete breakfast, I sometimes add a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter and a tablespoon of cocoa powder. The chocolatey protein drink version has a lot more calories of course, but gives me energy galore.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Recommended Reading for Tweens in 4th-6th Grade

The following titles are the "chapter books" I read and loved as a kid:

My Top Picks for Girls:

Black Beauty

The Nancy Drew series

The Little House on the Prairie series

Treasures of the Snow

My Top Picks for Boys or Girls:

Swiss Family Robinson

The Sugar Creek Gang series

The Hardy Boys series

Peanuts Comic Books

A lot of books you will find on classical reading lists are not of interest to preteens living in 2013. That said, I feel that older books teach better morals and have more educational value than the dumbed down children's books of today. I like my children to read the above books from the late 19th and early 20th century that I enjoyed as a young girl. I don't remember how old I was when I started reading these books, but I'm pretty sure I was still reading some of them by age eleven. I read most of the books on the list voluntarily for pleasure, not knowing that they were educational.

I think my mom read some of these books in her own childhood which is why she bought them for me. I didn't have a lot of books so some of them, including Black Beauty, were read more than once. The Sugar Creek Gang books and Treasures of the Snow were books I had to read for school but enjoyed immensely.

I read a few other books, but the ones on my list are the more memorable ones that I recommend. Since these old books were still interesting to me in the late 70s and early 80s, they have obviously withstood the test of time. I'm sure there are other fun classics that I hope to discover and pass on to my kids, but the books on this list are my personal favorites from my own childhood.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Saving Money on Groceries: Mexican Stores

One of the ways that we save money on groceries is by doing some of our shopping at Mexican grocery stores. I don't mean those small, storefront taquerias, though. Those have their purpose, too-- like when we want their specially seasoned fajita meat or jerky or just a place to practice speaking Spanish. No, I'm talking about the full sized supermercados where you can not only buy Mexican foods but also your favorite brands of cereal, spaghetti sauce, and ice cream. A couple of the stores like this that we have here in Fort Worth are "Fiesta" and "Carnival."

Some of the items we get for low prices at these stores are tortillas, rice, and beans. Cheese and other fresh staple items also cost substantially less at these places. There is always a large selection of interesting produce, and there are usually inexpensive steaks, as well as hamburger meat and chicken which really saves us a bundle. A lot of the fun, imported hot sauces are only a few cents a bottle.

When we go to these stores, we basically buy two weeks worth of groceries. They pretty much have everything we normally use including preservative free bread and all natural peanut butter. The only item I was disappointed about not being able to buy there this last time was lunch meat since the store we went to does not yet carry nitrate free cold cuts. I don't think they have real maple syrup or anything organic, either, but those few items can always be picked up somewhere else on another trip.

We like to start out with lunch at the in-store restaurant when we shop at "Carnival" in Northwest Fort Worth...

my lunch: bean and cheese burrito with fresh pico de gallo

my hubby's lunch: menudo

Saving Money on Seasonings: Even if you don't live near an ethnic grocery store, you can often find many common seasonings in those little bags located on the hispanic aisle in most stores. Onion powder, garlic powder, and cinnamon are just a few examples. Simply refill the seasoning jars you already have at home with the contents of these affordable little bags... 

saving money buying seasonings in bags from ethnic aisle
curry powder and chili powder

Related Post: Saving Money Shopping at Aldi

Friday, August 2, 2013

Fast Mocha Frappe in Blender

Although real maple syrup has about the same number of calories as white sugar, it tastes sweeter so I end up using less. It doesn't make my coffee drinks taste like pancake syrup either--it just sweetens them as sugar would. This homemade mocha frappe is the perfect pick me up on a summer morning!

blended icy coffee drink with maple syrup


1 1/2 cups milk
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp real maple syrup
3-4 ice cubes


Add all ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth and frothy. This makes enough for two people or this one very busy and active mom!

coffee and almonds for breakfast

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread Cupcakes

Today's post is a guest post from my ten year old daughter who I'll refer to here as "Little Chef." She did everything herself including taking the picture. I am now turning the keyboard over to her...

I baked a batch of white cupcakes. And instead of using unhealthy store bought chocolate frosting, I used a chocolate hazelnut spread. It was good so why don't you try making it too?

Jif Cupcakes

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Homemade Hamburger Buns using your Bread Machine

If you have a bread machine, you probably already have flour, sugar, salt, and rapid rise dry yeast on hand. Frugal, homemade hamburger buns can be made easily using my all purpose dough recipe.  Not only can you avoid an extra trip to the store and feel good about serving buns made from all natural ingredients, but hot, fresh homemade buns can take your burgers to a whole new level!

Bun Directions:

Once your bread machine's dough cycle is complete, grease a cookie sheet with a little oil or cooking spray. Divide the dough into nine portions and shape the buns into circles about one inch thick...

Dough Formed into Buns

Allow the buns to rise for about thirty minutes on the cookie sheet. They will rise some when baking anyway so you can skip this extra rising if you are short on time...

Unbaked Buns After Sitting out for 30 Minutes

If you have any sesame seeds, sprinkle them on the hamburger buns just before baking. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Slice each bun with a bread knife after baking to separate the tops and bottoms.

Guacamole and Onion Burger
Avocado Burger on Homemade Bun

Thursday, July 25, 2013


So I was planning to make quesadillas and realized I was out of cheddar cheese. Here's how the conversation went between my picky six year old son and me:

Me: Will you eat a quesadilla made with white cheese?

Son: NO. Don't you have any orange cheese??

Me five minutes later: Wanna try one of these PIZZAdillas?

Son: Okay!

Son: MOM, Can you make these another day!? PUT THESE ON YOUR BLOG!!!

He likes it! Hey Mikey!!!

So here's what I used to make my pizzadillas:

Monterey Jack cheese
Pepperoni (preservative free)
Flour tortillas


Place cheese, salsa, and pepperoni on one side of a tortilla and place in a pan over medium heat.


Fold it over and turn it a few times with a spatula, making sure the tortilla doesn't burn on either side.

Pizzadilla is ready when the cheese is melted.

Serve with raw veggies for a fast weeknight dinner.

Copyright 2013, Raani S., Two Chickens In Every Pot

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Two Ingredient Banana "Ice Cream" Pie

This cool, refreshing pie was inspired by banana pudding which is traditionally topped with vanilla wafers. As I expected, the 'Nilla wafer crust turned out to be the perfect addition to the already decadent one ingredient banana "ice cream."  If you haven't tried eating bananas this way, yet, you will be surprised at how creamy and delicious they are after being frozen and blended!


4 bananas
1 store bought 'Nilla wafer pie crust

Yep. That's it! Okay, okay...I garnished mine with whipped cream and walnut pieces, but those are optional.


Cut up bananas into slices about one inch thick and freeze in a plastic bag for at least four hours.

Blend until smooth in a food processor, mini food chopper, or blender. It's okay to add a a few spoonfuls of water if you need to.

Spoon creamed bananas into pie crust and chill in freezer for two hours before slicing.

Warning: It will not be as creamy if you leave it in the freezer indefinitely so plan on serving it when it's ready.

frozen banana pie

banana pie with whipped cream and nuts

If you like non-dairy "banana ice cream," you may also be interested in my Two Ingredient Strawberry Banana "Ice Cream."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Frugal Freezer Burritos

I recently froze some homemade bean and cheese burritos after my sister mentioned this idea she saw on Pinterest. Since the refried beans were homemade and I got the tortillas on sale, I felt very frugal. I do make my own tortillas, but we had eaten all of the homemade tortillas the night I made the beans. Making tortillas is less expensive, but let's face it, it can be time consuming. A few days later, I froze some leftover breakfast burritos, and now I have come up with yet another frugal frozen burrito idea...

I used leftover bean soup to make more burritos! Ever notice how homemade soups and chilies thicken in the refrigerator? That consistency is perfect for spooning onto tortillas for burritos! 


Flour tortillas
shredded cheese
leftovers (bean soup, chili, refried beans, scrambled eggs, meats, etc.)
hot sauce or salsa


Spoon those thick, cold leftovers onto a tortilla, sprinkle with cheese and perhaps a little hot sauce, and wrap it up. I wrap each burrito in foil, and then I place several of the foil wrapped burritos into a plastic bag to prevent freezer burn. Label them with a permanent marker if there are more than one kind, and then throw 'em in the freezer.

Most flour tortillas are pliable enough to roll at room temperature, but you can heat them before wrapping if you are having trouble with them ripping. Since soups are moist and flavorful to begin with, they don't really need any hot sauce or salsa, but, in my opinion, the cheese is a must! You'll be surprised how many burritos you get out of that leftover soup that you were probably going to throw away. Sure, it was going to do some obligatory time in the fridge, but you were secretly hoping someone else would eat it. Even if you normally freeze leftover soups and chilies like I sometimes do, the burritos are much more convenient to pop into the oven on a busy day than a container of soup.

Since I have a large family, I heat several frozen burritos at a time in the oven which is one of the reasons I wrap mine in foil instead of  plastic. If someone wants to heat just one in the microwave, they can unwrap it and put it on a plate. Whatever your heating method, Melted cheese and flour tortillas will transform your leftover bean soup or other leftovers into flavorful burritos that only cost a few pennies to make!

bean burritos

School lunch idea: Sometimes I send a couple of heated, foil wrapped burritos in my teenage son's lunch so he can enjoy a hot, homemade meal at school. I put them in an insulated lunch box to keep them warm which works very well since they start out piping hot.

If you like frugal burritos, you might also be interested in my post about saving money by shopping at ethnic grocery stores.

Senate Bean Soup

I don't remember where I originally found this recipe years ago, but I remember reading that it was served in the cafeteria of the U.S. Senate which is how it got its name. I've been making this simple bean soup for years, and my husband really likes it. The following is my most recent adaptation of the recipe...

1 lb dry navy beans
1 or 2 meaty ham bones
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 stalks chopped celery
1 chopped carrot
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
salt and/or chicken bouillon to taste


Rinse and sort beans.
Cover beans and ham bones with 8-10 cups hot water.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, checking occasionally. You can cook this soup covered or uncovered depending on how watchful you want to be. If you cook it uncovered, you may need to add a little more water at some point.

Add remaining ingredients except for the salt or bouillon.

Frugal Navy Bean Soup

Simmer for another 1 1/2 hours, for a total of 3 hours cook time for the beans.

Remove ham bone, trim off the meat, and return the meat to soup.

Salt or add bouillon to taste.

Since the soup will thicken quite a bit overnight in the refrigerator, the leftovers can be used the next day as a tasty bean burrito filling! In fact, that's my favorite way to eat it!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fun Lunches for Kids

I've started making colorful lunches for my children in the morning while they are still sleeping. Not only is it fun to surprise them later in the day with their pre-made "bento box" inspired lunches, but it also frees me up from having a lot of clean up to do after lunch. Just because most of us are home all day, doesn't mean we can't enjoy the benefits of lunches packed ahead of time...and the little ones eat more fresh fruits and vegetables when they are presented in interesting ways...

Fun Monster Sandwich for Kids
Monster Ham and Cheese Sandwich

I sometimes do the prep work for dinner in the morning so I am thinking about experimenting with morning only food preparation on most days. What if I made the lunches, perhaps put together a lasagna, and then made breakfast all before waking the littles?

I could do most of my cooking alone without distractions, clean it all up, and have more time to spend on other things throughout the day like reading to the kids, cleaning and organizing other areas of the house, running errands, and the list goes on. I will be posting more about my morning only food prep adventures as I go...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fast No Bake Salted Caramel Cheesecake

This creamy, rich cheesecake takes only minutes to assemble and the recipe is so simple that I have it memorized. Sometimes it's nice to throw a dessert together that isn't completely from scratch and doesn't require a lot of measuring or effort. This cheesecake will impress your guests while still leaving you with plenty of time to primp before the party...


1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3 cups whipped cream
1 graham cracker crust
1 cup dulce de leche (caramel sauce)
 a few dashes of coarse sea salt


With an electric mixer, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar for about 30 seconds at medium speed. Add whipped cream and beat for thirty more seconds.

Spoon creamy filling into crust.

Spoon caramel sauce on top.

Sprinkle generously with salt.

Chill in refrigerator before slicing.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sweetest Sweet Potato Pie

I absolutely love pumpkin pie, and I had some organic sweet potatoes sitting neglected in the fridge that I couldn't let go to waste. By putting the sweet potatoes into a pie, I was able to get even my pickiest eater excited about eating sweet potatoes! It helps that sweet potato pie looks and tastes very similar to pumpkin pie. Yum! I should make this more often...


2 ½-3 medium sized sweet potatoes  or about 2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potato

½ stick of butter, melted

3/4 cups white sugar

scant ¼ cup brown sugar, NOT packed

½ cup milk

2 eggs

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust


Boil three sweet potatoes whole in skin for 45 to 50 minutes until tender. Allow to cool and remove skin.

Break apart sweet potatoes in a bowl, removing any stubbornly hard chunks that you will sometimes find near the ends. Add butter, milk, eggs, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and vanilla. The spices are flexible, but if you bake a lot, using the individual spices is more cost effective than buying "pumpkin pie spice."

Beat all ingredients on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust. I used a whole wheat crust which is more nutritious and has so much flavor but is a little denser than a store bought unbaked crust. Both the crust and the pie are surprisingly quick and easy to make! Remember what Mary Poppins said about pie crust; "..easily made, easily broken?" Well, my whole wheat crust IS easily made but not so easily broken...

Bake pie at 350 for 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. For best results refrigerate for a few hours before serving. It tastes best cold and slices up very nicely that way. The whole family loved the pie and it didn't last long so I baked another one the very next day!

sweetest sweet potato pie with whipped cream
sweet potato pie with whole wheat crust

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Whole Wheat Pie Crust Dough

With only half a cup of all purpose flour, this whole grain pie crust is nutritious as well as delicious. Whether or not that 1/2 cup of all purpose flour is bleached or unbleached is a personal matter--no judgment here! I am already impressed that you are considering using this healthy crust for your next dessert or savory pot pie. This recipe makes a single pie crust so you will need to double the ingredients if you are making a pie with crust on both the top and bottom like an apple pie or a chicken pot pie.

Ingredients for single pie crust:

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (½ cup) cold, salted butter
6 tbsp cold milk


In a large mixing bowl, stir together flours, sugar, and salt. Cut in slices of butter using a pastry cutter or simply grate the butter with your cheese grater and finish cutting it in with a fork. The largest pieces of butter should be pea sized and evenly distributed.

Pour the milk into the mixture, and use the fork to stir the dough. Do not stir too much or your crust won’t be as flaky. Form the crust into a ball, kneading it only a couple of times in the bowl to incorporate any dry powder into the ball. Refrigerate until ready to use.

When ready to bake your pie, roll out dough or press directly into pie pan. If desired, decorate the crust by making indentations around the edge with a fork. Bake this pie crust just as you would a store bought unbaked pie crust. Simply follow the instructions for whatever pie recipe you are using. Note: This hearty crust may be a little firmer than what you are used to. I do not recommend trying to eat it with a plastic fork.

Tip: Depending on the oven temperature and how long you are baking the crust, you may want to use a pie shield or a little bit of foil around the edges of the pie to protect it from burning during baking. That said, I baked my sweet potato pie for 60 minutes at 350 and did not need to cover the crust.

This dough isn't something you make just for the health benefits or to impress an orthorexic guest... (You may have to look that word up--it's a new one I've been dying to use!) Seriously, though...this crust actually tastes better than crust made with only refined white flour. Try it for yourself!

pie crust with decorated edges
Homemade Whole Wheat Pie Crust

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Busy Day Split Pea Soup

I've been making this split pea soup for years. It's amazingly easy to make. We are talking five minutes of prep time...And you can leave it alone for hours. I am always surprised at how flavorful cooked split peas are--this soup needs very little seasoning other than salt and pepper and maybe a few small pinches of garlic powder and onion powder. Pork neck bones also enhance the flavor, and I'm pretty sure that eating this soup counts as consuming "bone broth" which is all the rage right now. You can use fresh garlic, of course, but who wants the smell of garlic on their hands when heading out the door on a busy morning? This is an easy soup that you just throw together and it comes out great!


1 bag of yellow or green split peas
2 pork neckbones
2 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 of a medium sized onion, diced
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
8 cups of water
1 to 2 teaspoons of salt (to taste)


Rinse split peas in a colander (strainer.)

Place all ingredients except for the salt in a crock pot or whatever other brand of slow cooker.

Cook on low for 8 or 9 hours. Soup is done when it thickens and the pork is falling off of the bones.

Stir in salt to taste, adding a little at a time.

Remove bones and allow soup to cool a little before serving. It will thicken a little more upon standing. In fact, it will be "as thick as pea soup."

yellow split pea soup
Busy Day Split Pea Soup made with yellow split peas

Serve with bread or crackers for a more complete meal.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Man Pleasing Spring Rolls

Why is this recipe "man pleasing?" Because my husband made it, and it has bacon in it. Spring rolls are deep fried so they are more of an occasional weekend splurge for us than an everyday meal. On a more positive note, this is yet another one of our sneaky ways to get the kids to eat spinach.


1 lb bacon, chopped
1 head of cabbage, chopped
1 bunch of spinach, chopped and stems removed
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
1/2 ham steak, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 tsp pepper
24 spring roll pastries
vegetable oil (enough to cover the spring rolls)

Fry bacon pieces and chopped ham until crispy. Set ham and bacon aside. Add the cabbage, spinach, and green onions to the bacon grease and sprinkle with pepper and ginger. Saute over medium heat, stirring frequently, for several minutes or until vegetables are wilted and somewhat soft.

While the hubby was sauteing the vegetables, he was also making fried rice which I will have to post about another time. Steamed rice drizzled with a little soy sauce would also be a good side dish to compliment the spring rolls.

Drain off any excess fat and return the bacon and ham to the pan.

Wrap a little bit of the mixture in each spring roll pastry. He bought a pack of 40 and ended up filling about two dozen.

how much filling to put in spring roll
filling on spring roll pastry

fold two opposite corners of spring roll pastry
fold two opposite corners inward

wrap a spring roll as you would roll a burrito
tuck one of the open ends around the mixture and roll forward

spring roll pastry
finish rolling by flipping the full part forward a few times over the excess wrapper

As you can see, he basically folds, tucks, and then tightly rolls the spring rolls in a similar way to how you would make a burrito. You can seal the edges with a little egg white if you like, but his rolls held together just fine during frying without that extra step. 

Carefully submerge a few of the rolls at a time for a few minutes in hot oil either in a deep fryer, wok, or deep skillet. Cook until the outside pastry is golden brown. The oil is hot enough if it bubbles slightly when you drop the roll into it, and the roll browns in one to two minutes.

Blot cooked spring rolls with paper towels to remove excess oil.

These are crispy, tasty, and filling.

homemade spring rolls with fried rice, green onion, and carrots

Note: Spring rolls are very customizable. Now that you know how to wrap them, you can fill them with whatever you like. You do not have to put meat in them since they are also good with just vegetables. Bell peppers, bean sprouts, and carrots are some sturdy vegetables that will work well in addition to the cabbage. Post a comment and let me know what you put in yours!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Personal Pizzas

Who doesn't like building their own pizza?

homemade fun children's pizza
my googly eyed pizza

There are a few secrets to making good pizza at home. First, heat the oven to about 500 degrees or hotter and preheat a pizza stone. It can be tricky transferring a large pizza onto a hot stone which is already in the oven. Some people make a full sized pizza on parchment paper and transfer it to the oven using a "pizza peel." They say you can slide out the parchment paper after cooking the pizza for a few minutes.

I use nothing but a metal spatula to transfer these small personal pizzas back and forth from my kitchen table to the oven. One thing that makes it so much easier, is that I cook the dough a little bit by itself before adding the toppings. Doing it this way not only makes for a crispier finished product, but it also provides a sturdy base which is easier to transport to the oven after loading it with sauce, cheese, and other toppings.
I made the dough in my bread machine, but you could also make it by hand or even buy ready made dough if you just want to get straight to the fun decorating part. I know your time is valuable. I'm not a food snob. I go through phases where I have different priorities in my cooking. In certain seasons of life, convenience is important. When I'm in "survival mode" I buy a different color of disposable cups for each child and eat take out food at least once a week. Other times, I cook most things from scratch to save money. And then there are those extreme health kicks where I spend way too much time in the kitchen and end up paying more for whatever they are currently telling us is superior...

I'm all for natural food, but I'm not going to lie to you and say this pizza was made with "pastured" cheese. For all I know, the cheese might have come from those thousands of black and white cows that stunk up a long stretch of highway on our recent road trip. But their milk tastes really good and has been radiated for our safety. Genuine Holstein Mozzarella cheese, folks! Cause happy cows come from.........wherever.

"Little Chef's" pizza had a mustache and goatee

"Tinkerbell," age 4, said she didn't want any 'green stuff' on hers...hence the carrots.

I call this one...Mr. Potato Head

Crust Ingredients:

1 cup water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine or quick active dry yeast


Place all crust ingredients into the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer.
My ten year old who we'll refer to as "Little Chef" was the one who suggested I put garlic in the dough. She's always right about these things.

There is a chance that the dough ball will look a little dry so check on it after a few minutes and perhaps add a little more water. Here's what the perfect pizza dough ball looks like about 30 minutes into the dough cycle...

perfect dough ball in breadmaker

Fixings for Seven Personal Pizzas:

1 1/2 small jars of all natural pizza sauce
16 oz of mozzarella
a few mushrooms
1/2 of a bell pepper
a few slices of nitrate free ham
a few sliced jalapenos
a few green onions
Parmesan cheese 

When the dough cycle is complete, preheat oven to 500 degrees or higher with the pizza stone in the oven. Divide dough into seven balls. Roll them out very thin, sprinkling with a little flour to keep them from sticking. Place two of the rolled out dough discs into the oven. I use my hands since they are as thin as tortillas and just quickly drop them onto the stone. Bake the crusts for 3-5 minutes or until they puff up a bit and are no longer floppy. Remove them from the oven using a spatula or pizza peel and put them on a plate...

partially baked, non-floppy pizza crust

Let people put their toppings on and return each pizza to the oven for a few more minutes on the stone. Bake pizzas, one or two at a time, until crusts are very crispy but not burnt and cheese is melted and maybe even toasty. Since the oven and the stone may continue to get hotter for subsequent batches, you will want to check on the pizzas every few minutes.

Homemade Bread Machine Pizza
Dignified Adult Pizza

I forgot to sprinkle on Parmesan cheese before taking the pictures...but trust me, there WAS Parmesan involved!