Monday, June 29, 2009

It's Giveaway Time!

Just a friendly reminder that I'll be picking the winner of my car related giveaway this week because I GOT A NEW CAR, which was purchased because something else went wrong with my old car.

Y'all know the rules -- guess what broke and if no one guesses correctly I'm going to pick the entry that makes me laugh the most! I'll be picking the winner on Thursday so be sure and enter soon! Remember the winner gets a Starbucks Travel Mug filled with goodies!

In other news, my mom came into town this weekend. We had a blast, with the exception of the scary car malfunction on the way home from the airport on Thursday! She'd never been to Chicago before so I was really excited to show her around my new city. We did all of the touristy stuff like eating at Pizzeria Uno and the bf and my step dad went to the Cub/Sox game on Friday. I was definitely sad to see Mom leave very early Sunday morning, especially since her departure means that it's definitely bar exam crunch time for the bf and I at this point!

The bf and I also looked at a couple of apartments this weekend which was exciting. I'm not sure who is more excited about the bf and I finding a new place, us or my mom (who made me tell my cat Gus all about the apartment over the telephone. In case you haven't realized this yet, Gus likes to talk and I'm a little obsessed with the pets). We also found a great frozen custard place and all you can eat sushi.

After dropping my mom off at the airport and looking at apartments, I was finally able to do the one thing that I've been dying to do since I moved to Chicago. I finally went to the beach and it was awesome! Although the beach was very crowded I was able to get a lot of studying done while soaking up some rays (with plenty of SPF since I'm so pale I'm almost clear). Besides being a relaxing afternoon it was also great motivation for me to get my fat butt in shape. I've never seen so many fantastic bikini bodies in one place! I feel like I should take a walk to the beach every time I either want to eat crap or not work out!

In other news, both pairs of shoes arrived! The navy Manolos are beautiful and in fantastic shape! The Jack Rogers are brand spanking new and arrived with a really beautiful pink Ann Taylor sweater that still had the tags on it (remember this was a shopgoodwill auction that I won for $23)!

That's about all for today. I'm sorry there is nothing food related but we did a lot of eating out this weekend because of the aforementioned parental visit. Get excited about some new healthy dishes later in the week.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A great start to the day

I admit that I'm not much of a breakfast person unless I'm eating it at 11:30 on a Saturday. However, I do enjoy breakfast food, I just don't enjoy getting up in enough time to eat. I'm every excited to have come up with a really fun take on the healthy classic oatmeal (and no this does not involve the instant stuff that comes in a package already seasoned). I call this oatmeal cookie oatmeal and its great. I served mine with a fried egg on top because I love the savory sweet combination.

Oatmeal Cookie Oatmeal
Enough oatmeal for one serving (or more if you make it for more than one)
Skim Milk
Pinch of Salt
1/4 cup dried fruit (I used dried cherries)
2 teaspoons all fruit spread (more on this new staple later)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon maple syrup

In a small saucepan prepare the oatmeal according to package directions, substituting skim milk for the water. Bring this to a boil at a lower heat than the package directions provide for so that the milk does not burn. Add 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar at this point.

Once you've added the oatmeal and its nearly finished (according to the package) add the all fruit spread, the dried fruit, and the maple syrup. Stir very well so that the all fruit spread melts and flavors the oatmeal.

Place in a bowl and top with the remaining brown sugar. Top with a fried egg if you want something salty to accompany your sweet oatmeal.


On a side note, all fruit spread is absolutely amazing! The bf's aunt and uncle left a pretty stocked fridge for us and insisted that we eat everything in it (the apt is for sale and they don't want to move things like food). Anyway, they had a jar of all fruit spread in the fridge and it's definitely a gem! Unlike regular jam and jelly this product has 40 calories per serving and no fat! It's also not too sweet so you can use it on and in everything. It's great alone on toast or used to add a bit of sweetness to an Asian style sauce. I'm totally obsessed!

Another side note related to my previous post about - I just won a Jack Rogers lot that includes the pink and green Jack Rogers sandals, plus an Ann Taylor shirt, a pink cuff watch and two purses, all new with tags. Which is awesome because my winning bid was $23.50 which I would have paid for the sandals alone since they are about $100 per pair retail, and I go the sandals plus several other items that I'm sure will make great gifts for friends or even better a great giveaway!

Also, has anyone checked out the j.crew final sale? I'm going this weekend because I've still got quite a bit left on my giftcard. Hopefully I'll be able to get several items for what I would have paid regular price for one.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A quickie and a confession

Sounds dirty doesn't it? Unfortunately it's not -- the confession is about one of my favorite thrifty shopping secrets and the quickie was last night's dinner (sorry!).

Let's start with the quickie. Since I had to take the bf to his rugby practice last night, I wanted to go running while he was at practice and eat dinner before 10:00 p.m., I literally had 30 minutes to cook dinner. We both have been eating really healthy, which of course makes me really crave crap so I had to tackle both (quickness and healthiness) last night. I really wanted chicken tenders and french fries but that would destroy all of the good work we've done this week health wise. I ended up adapting the chicken tenders dinner into a healthier baked alternative.

Quick Roasted Potatoes
4 or 5 medium to large size red potatoes cut into chunks
1/2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons of each: Seasoning Salt, Garlic Salt, Pepper, Herb de Provence(or Italian Seasoning), Emeri's Essence
Additional Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Wash the potatoes and chop. Place in a large saucepan and cover with water. Boil until almost fork tender (about 10 to 15 minutes). Drain off the water and return the potatoes to the pan. Add the butter and olive oil. Stir to coat being careful not to break up the potatoes. Add the seasonings and stir to coat being careful not to break up the potatoes. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Add the seasoned potatoes and bake for 15 to 20 minutes (or until the chicken is finished)

Chicken Tenders:
1 lb. package chicken tenders
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
2 teaspoons each: Emeril's Essence, Garlic Salt, Oregano, Steak Seasoning, Seasoning Salt, Pepper
dash Salt, Pepper, Essence

Preheat oven to 400. Using 3 shallow dishes and one baking dish make an assembly line. In the 1st dish add the flour with a dash of salt, pepper and essence. Mix well with a fork. In the 2nd dish add the egg, milk and mustard. Whisk well. In the 3rd dish add the bread crumbs, cheese and remaining spices. Mix well with a fork. Spray the 4th dish (baking dish) in the line with cooking spray or add some olive oil to coat the bottom. Place the chicken tenders in the flour. Coat well then dip them in the egg mixture. Allow excess to drip off. Coat the chicken in the bread crumbs and shake off excess. Place in the greased baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and the chicken is cooked through, turning over once during the cooking process.

I served this with simple steamed asparagus that I seasoned with a little bit of butter (1/2 tablespoon) salt, pepper, garlic salt, and Parmesan cheese.


And now about the confession. I admit that I've been debating over whether or not to blog about this because I like to think of it as one of my best kept secrets. However, I've decided to finally share this secret since it is part of the reason that my closet is full of some awesome designer clothing and shoes.

Before I reveal the source let me give you a list of all the stuff (and amount paid pre-shipping) I've purchased from this source: adorable Moschino Cheap and Chic sandals for $15; Ferragamo pumps for $17; Ferragamo flats for $7; Halston strappy sandals for $30; Lilly pants for $8, Citizens jeans for $14; a Moschino Cheap and Chic blazer for $40; and a Burberry coat for $60. I got all of this stuff from Goodwill's website: It's a great site that works kind of like ebay. The stuff is sold through an online auction with most bids starting between $5 and $10.

There are new items every day and while some stuff can go quite high (think knockoff LV bags, used Coach bags, random Jimmy Choo heels) there are plenty of bargains to be had, especially on the less well known designer clothing. Check it out next time you're in the mood to shop but feeling thrifty.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Healthy is Better (I've turned over a new food leaf)

As I'm sitting here trying to remember what exactly I put into last night's dinner I'm reminded of the SNL sketch for Super Colon Blow. I realize that reference makes dinner seem a little sketchy at best, but I swear it's not. Dinner was just really high in fiber and made me think of that (remember Super Colon Blow was a super high fiber cereal?) Anyway, last night's dinner was one of my finer experiments -- well balanced and flavorful and low in fat. I'm not sure what to call it yet, but I'm thinking Asian Style Super Colon Blow would be really funny (j/k).

I'm sure you are all just dying to know what deliciousness I made last night based on the above description. Dinner actually was an Asian style chicken and black bean stir-fry with spicy garlic "fried" rice. (the Super Colon Blow reference comes from the beans and brown rice)

Spicy Garlic "Fried" Rice
1 cup regular brown rice (not the instant kind)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion finely minced
2 cloves garlic finely minced
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you want it really spicy)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon each: chili powder and Emeril's Essence
1 tablespoon fresh or dehydrated chives
2 cups water
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a saucepan heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for a couple of minutes until the onions are soft. Add the rice, sesame seeds, chili powder, essence, pepper, chives, and salt. Allow to cook for a couple more minutes. Add the lime juice and soy sauce. Stir well and allow to cook for another minute. Add the water. Turn the heat up to medium high. Bring to a rolling boil. Turn heat down to low and allow the rice to simmer for about 30 minutes.

** Do this before you start the stir fry so that the rice and stir fry are finished around the same time.

Black Bean and Chicken Stir Fry
1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast tenders
1 (10 - 14 oz) can black beans drained and rinsed
2 carrots peeled and chopped into matchstick shapes
1 stalk celery roughly chopped
1/2 onion roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic finely minced
several mushrooms chopped
1 cup cauliflower roughly chopped
1 handful green beans trimmed and roughly chopped if necessary
2 teaspoons each: steak seasoning, granulated garlic, five spice powder, pepper, salt
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons all fruit spread (any flavor)
1 teaspoon five spice powder (additional to the above)
2 teaspoons each: crushed red pepper flakes, dried basil, Emeril's Essence, Chili Powder
Pepper to taste

Chop the chicken tenders into cubes. Place in a food storage bag or a bowl and season with the 2 teaspoons of each -- steak seasoning, granulated garlic, five spice powder, salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large skillet or a wok heat vegetable oil (or other light colored oil) over medium high heat. Add the chicken. Allow to cook for a few minutes (or until no longer pink) and then add the mushrooms. Add the black beans. Stir well. Add the additional vegetables. Allow to cook and then add the dry spices (red pepper flakes, five spice powder, pepper, Essence, Chili powder, basil. Cook and stir for a few more minutes so the spices are evenly distributed on the chicken and vegetables. Add the soy sauce and stir well. Add the all fruit spread and stir well. At this point the black beans should start breaking down to make the sauce a little bit thicker. Keep stirring well for another 3 minutes or so. Serve with the rice.

Enjoy! As a side note this dish would be great with bean sprouts and sugar snap peas as well. Also topping it with fresh cilantro or green onions would also be fantastic.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I won the shoes!

Too excited! They are perfect and practical and my size (very important). I also got them for less than $100 (including shipping). I'm super pumped. I had budgeted around $200 for a pair of navy pumps since they fall into my "basics" category of black, brown, tan and navy. I tend to spend more on "basics" that I wear day after day than I do on items that are less practical since I'm a huge cost per wear person. The way I see it, it makes much more sense (to me at least) to spend more on one item that I'm going to wear forever than to buy several cheap things that I may only wear for a season or two.

I've also decided that I am going to take on the marathon! I talked to my mom today and she was really supportive and hinted that she'd help me raise the money (mostly because I'm thinking that I'm going to get the call that she's keeping Gus my cat and she doesn't want me to be too mad at her. She's wrong, I'll catnap Gus if I have too, but I'm excited for the support). Right now I can do about 6 miles without getting really winded so the move up to 9 won't be awful and then the move to 13 won't be horrible and so on.

Finally, since the bf is obsessed with rugby (he played in high school and college and coached while in law school) he's decided to join a rugby club here in Chicago. So that I know what the hell he's talking about I'm thinking about joining one as well. I've been looking for a new sport to play (I was thinking ice hockey but the equipment is really expensive) and I feel like rugby would give the violence that I want with hockey but all it would cost me is a pair of cleats and a mouthguard. As an added bonus, I feel like it combined with joining my sorority's alumni chapter would be a great way for me to make new friends here in Chicago, especially since BarBri isn't exactly a social networking center.

Also, look for a great spaghetti remake post tomorrow called spaghetti pie which I created out of Monday's leftovers.

Random thoughts

Since I made so much of the spaghetti and lamb meatballs on Sunday, I didn't cook last night (I just cooked some more noodles, added some low fat cheese to the sauce, tossed it in a baking dish, topped it with more cheese and turned it into baked spaghetti) I don't have a recipe for today (although I'm working on one for creamy black beans and rice). However, I do have some random thoughts.

Thought number one:
I saw in one of the free newspapers today that even though the Chicago Marathon is sold out, that I can still participate through the American Cancer Society. This would be perfect, because I think that the American Cancer Society is a great organization and since I've lost grandparents to cancer. Also, a lot of people very close to me have been affected by cancer I'd love to support the organization. Thing is, it's a really scary thing for me to take on right now. Besides running 26.2 miles, I'd also need to raise $950 to participate with the organization. Since I'm currently unemployed, $950 is a lot of money for me to raise plus I'm really out of shape, and studying for the bar exam. I feel like I could probably raise the money, but I'm really worried that I won't be able to get in shape in time to participate. I've ran a half marathon and it was fine, but a full marathon is a different story. Have any of you participated in a marathon before? If I started training now would I have time to get into shape by Oct. 11?

Thought number two:
I've been searching for a pair of navy pumps since April to go with my new suit. I have a pair but they are very uncomfortable because they are a 1/2 size too small. They also look really weird on my feet. I'm very excited to announce that after almost 2 months of constant searching I found a pair on Ebay that are in my price range and they're Manolo's.

I have to admit that I'm a little bit of a shoe snob and will definitely pay full retail for a pair of Manolos when I can afford it but I'm always very excited to find a bargain on a pair. I do have to explain the reasoning behind my snobbery though, so I don't sound like a complete tool. In my chosen profession I am generally required to wear a suit and heels every day (which sucks) and after a summer of doing this I learned that the more expensive shoe brands are A LOT more comfortable! There is a reason Carrie Bradshaw could run around the streets of NYC in her Manolos. Also, a good pair of shoes (higher quality) always ups the ante on a more moderately priced outfit (the same goes for a handbag). I have to thank my mom for this advice, as a very thrifty person herself, she taught me that there are certain things that you absolutely should buy the best you can afford because these items will last much longer than several cheaper alternatives.

That motherly advise aside. Ebay (if I win the auction) is definitely a lifesaver in this situation because apparently navy is an unpopular shoe color this season and the only retail options I have found have been either office inappropriate and poor quality or very old ladyish. I'll post more about the shoes if I win the auction.

That's about all for today, and yes I realize this was a very, very random post.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I'm cooking again!

Since the bf and I are now living by ourselves again, I have to cook again. I admit, that I've really been missing being in the kitchen so I was very excited to cook dinner tonight. I made spaghetti with lamb meatballs and it was great, if I do say so myself! I know that lamb is a more expensive meat, but for this recipe you only need about 1/2lb. of lamb which makes it more cost effective.

Lamb Meatballs
1/2 lb. lean ground lamb
1/2 small onion chopped very finely
2 cloves garlic finely minced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1 teaspoon steak seasoning
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons mint jelly (I know it sounds weird)
1/2 teaspoon Emeril's Essence
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil or cooking spray. Form the meat into golf ball size balls and place on the sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest until the pasta sauce is finished. Add to the pasta sauce (see recipe below)

Tomato Basil Sauce
1/2 medium size onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon mint jelly (because of the lamb)
1 teaspoon of the following: steak seasoning, dried oregano, seasoning salt, Emeril's Essence
1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
handful of fresh basil chopped
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over med. to med. low heat. Add the garlic and onions. Saute for a few minutes then add the mint jelly. Add some salt and pepper. Add the steak seasoning, seasoning salt, oregano, and essence. Add the water and allow to cook down a little bit. Add the tomatoes. If sauce is too think add a little bit more water. Add the cheese and some more salt and pepper. Allow to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Add the basil. Add the meat balls and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Serve with pasta of your choice.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away

It's cold and rainy here in Chicago today, which makes me really want tomato soup and a grilled cheese. Tomato soup and grilled cheese is one of my all time favorite meals, I absolutely love it. While I do love a good homemade tomato soup I admit that Campbell's is my favorite.

There is just something so comforting about tomato soup and a grilled cheese on white bread with American cheese. I know it's not exactly gourmet, but I really don't care. This is one of those meals you just don't mess with! Perhaps I'll make homemade tomato soup and serve it with grilled cheese sandwiches on thick sliced bread with thick sliced cheese.

On another note, the bf and I move tomorrow, and since we will no longer be staying with his aunt and uncle I'll have to start cooking again. The bf is going to be quite disappointed now that he has to go back to eating what I cook compared to the amazing meals his uncle has prepared for us in the last three weeks. I guess I'm going to have to step up my game, which will work out well for you fellow bloggers, because hopefully I'll have some new and exciting quick and cheap dishes!

Happy Thursday!

P.S. Is anyone watching I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here? I saw the first couple of episodes and am not quite sure what to say, oh wait, yes I do. Spiedi is even more horrible than I could have ever imagined (I'm not a Hills watcher) and I applaud NBC for such a smart casting move since Speidi is such a compelling reason to watch the show (although they have since left, but Spencer may return according to

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wedding Recap

I'm finally back from the wedding weekend in fabulous Dayton, Ohio. I have to say that it turned out to be way more fun that I thought it was going to be.

I have to admit that I was very worried at first because I didn't know anyone attending except for the bf and the bride and groom (and I'd only met them once). I was also a little anxious because it was my first Jewish wedding and since this was a wedding weekend it also included attending two services (Friday night and Saturday morning). Even though the bf is Jewish, I'm not and so as a general rule we don't attend religious services together (unless it is a holiday). However, since this was a big wedding, I wasn't the only one who was attending services for the first time.
Although I was a little worried at first, my fears were quickly put aside. Even though the bf was a member of the wedding party, I was able to sit with him at services and he explained to me what was going on. I also met the wife of one of the other groomsmen who also didn't know many people in attendance either. I also met the girlfriend of another one of the groomsmen who didn't know anyone either. This was great because it gave me someone to sit with at the wedding.
I think that it was really nice that the bride and groom included the wedding guests in their religious traditions. The groom is studying to be a rabbi and he led part of the services on Saturday which was really special.
The wedding itself was absolutely amazing. The bride's dress was one of the most beautiful dresses I've ever seen as were the bridesmaids dresses and the flowers. I wish I could post pictures, hopefully I'll find my camera cord soon and will be able to!
That said, here's a question that I'd really love to know the answer to -- Why is it that cheap hotels include breakfast and wireless Internet in the price of the room and more expensive hotels make you pay extra for it? It seems like it should be reversed. Am I alone here?
Finally, don't forget to enter my giveaway! Remember if you can guess what breaks on my car next then you win! Remember that if I trade vehicles before something else breaks I'll pick the entry that makes me laugh the most. Winner gets a nifty travel mug from Starbucks! (I thought it would be fitting because the giveaway is car related).

Monday, June 8, 2009

Giveaway Reminder!

Just a friendly reminder to enter my giveaway. I've decided that the prize for the most creative or correct entry (whichever happens first) will be a nifty travel coffee mug! If I could find my camera cord I'd post a pic!

I'm in route back to Chicago from Dayton, OH so I'm sorry for being a bit MIA for the last 4 or 5 days. I was at one of those wedding weekends that afforded me little downtime and we were staying in a hotel with no wireless access, so thus no blogging for me, the dear thrify girl who is too cheap to pay $12 for the internet!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My first giveaway!

I've never done a giveaway before, and I was planning on doing one for my 100th post but I decided to make it a little bit earlier because I have a great idea!

First, a little background. My vehicle is a piece of crap, seriously it's just like the car in that Adam Sandler song. It is literally falling apart daily. To illustrate, here is the current list of everything that is wrong with it:
  • The rear differential is going out and needs to be rebuilt
  • There is a problem with the transmission
  • There is a hole in the windshield washer fluid container so I never have washerfluid
  • There is a short in the electrical system
  • The weather stripping around the doors is falling down
  • The thing that holds up the rear liftgate is starting to fall occasionally
  • The CD player no longer works
  • Sometimes the lights don't come on when I open the driver's side door
  • The hood won't stay up

I also just recently replaced the crankshaft sensor and the drive sensor. I've put 5 batteries in it. This is also the same vehicle that for no apparent reason rolled down my mom's driveway into the truck when I was inside watching television.

Needless to say, I'm hoping to trade vehicles very soon!

The Giveaway:

Basically what I've planned to do is to create some sort of contest to see who can guess what will break on my car next.

Comment on this post with your guess.

If you guess correctly then you win. Yay! In the event that I trade vehicles before something else breaks, falls off, etc., I will decide the winner based on the funniest most creative entry!

Which means there are two ways in which you can win: (1) be correct in what breaks next or (2) come up with something that is super funny and creative.

I will announce the winner as soon as something else breaks or when I get a new car.

I haven't decided what the winner is going to get yet, but look for a post very soon with the details of that plus a reminder of the giveaway!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Healthy Swaps

As I mentioned before, the bf and I are really trying to eat healthier. From the comments to my brown bagging it post, I see that we are not alone! So, I've decided to post a list of healthier substitutes for higher fat ingredients (some of these substitutions are also a little bit cheaper or have a longer shelf life).

Before I get to that I have to scold myself for my constant use of exclamation points. I never realized how often I use them when commenting on blogs or posting on my own blog until I saw a Seinfeld rerun recently. Part of this episode was related to Elaine's frequent use of exclamation points and now I'm paranoid that I too use an exclamation point all too frequently.

That said, here are a list of some of my favorite lower fat substitutions for high fat ingredients:
  • Evaporated Milk (or evaporated skim milk) for Heavy Cream: this is one of my all time favorite substitutions! Not only do you get the taste of heavy cream for a fraction of the fat and calories, but you don't have to refrigerate the evaporated milk so it's shelf life is way longer than that of the heavy cream. A word of warning about the use of evaporated skim milk -- if you decide to use it, only do so over low heat otherwise it will scorch and look kind of gross; in other words, you MUST babysit your pot if you decide to use the evaporated skim milk. This warning does not apply if you use just regular evaporated milk.
  • Creamed Corn + Evaporated Milk for Heavy Cream: this is a recent discovery and is a great substitution if you are making either a southwestern pasta cream sauce or a potato and corn chowder. Creamed corn (in a can) has like 90 calories per serving and little to no fat. The flavor is just as rich as the heavy cream and so is the consistency. However, only use this substitution if the recipe calls for both CORN and HEAVY CREAM otherwise it may turn out a little odd. I should also note that the dishes that I've used this trick for have turned out a little rich so keep that in mind as well.
  • Whole Wheat Pasta for White: I'm not sure how many calories you save with this substitution but whole grain pasta is way healthier than the regular stuff. Some people may complain about the texture of the whole grain pasta, but honestly I can't tell that much of a difference.
  • Brown Rice for White: Again, I'm not that sure of the calorie difference, but the nutritional difference is amazing. I also can't tell the difference taste wise. It should be noted; however, that the cooking time is a bit longer so make sure and read the label before you start.
  • Use Olive Oil + 1/2 amount of Butter required instead of using only Butter: I love this idea for two reasons: (1)olive oil is better to cook with because it does not burn like butter and (2) you save a lot of saturated fat yet still get the flavor of butter. Recipes call for butter because of the flavor of the butter, not for its cooking qualities (unless you are making eggs). By substituting olive oil for 1/2 of the butter you still get the flavor of the butter but you save a lot of saturated fat. Remember olive oil is a heart healthy oil so while it may contain a bit of calories it's still good for you in moderation.
  • Lean cuts of meat instead of fattier ones: This one is obvious; the leaner the meat the lower in fat and calories it is. So instead of buying regular ground turkey buy ground turkey breast. Same goes for ground beef, buy the 93/7 instead of the 85/15 and so on. Substitute chicken breast for dark meat chicken and remove the skin before cooking. The same goes for beef, pork, etc. This is an area where it is really important to focus on the labels, so make sure you read the label and figure out the fat content before you purchase.
  • Extra Vegetables for Meat: Anyone who watches Oprah or the Biggest Loser knows that a serving of meat should be no larger than a deck of cards. That said, one of the easiest ways to make your meat portions smaller (especially in sauces, soups and casseroles) is to double the amount of vegetables needed. Besides being healthier and adding more flavor to your dish, this is also a great way to stretch a dish. I've started using half the amount of meat required in my soup recipes and compensating with a ton of extra veggies. Honestly, I can't even notice a difference. That said, this is not something I'd recommend for a non-one pot wonder. If you're serving steak and potatoes by all means prepare the amount necessary, but if you're serving mac and cheese with chicken use half the chicken and add more celery, onions, pepper, broccoli, whatever you've got on hand.

That's about all of the tips I can think of for today. As I learn more, I'll let you all know.

On another note, the bf and I are attending a wedding this weekend and have yet to purchase a gift. We've spent quite a bit of money already on this wedding and when I looked at the registry today even the moderately priced items were quite expensive, like in the $150 range. Honestly, we can't afford to buy the couple a gift off of the registry based on the amount of money we've already spent. This is where I need your advice fellow readers. Would it be horrible to buy the couple a generic but useful gift from a lower priced retailer instead of one of the items off their very expensive registry? Keep in mind that both the bf and I are unemployed and still living off of either student loans or monthly allowances from our parents.