Brown Bagging It: The Struggle Continues

27 Jan

Doesn’t it look so boring?  When I see one, I immediately think of some smashed mediocre sandwich cut down the middle, a Washington Red, and a bag of baby carrots.

While so many people plan to diet and lose weight every year, I unsuccessfully go on a spending diet.  But I’m never discouraged to take a stab it every year.  Without a doubt, my plan is thwarted by food, wine and spirit infused fun times and escapades.  So here I am, once again, making plans to brown bag it in 2012.  Here is what my lunch week looks like most times:

Monday

Tuesday[1]

Wednesday

Thursday[2]

Friday

Total

10.00

4.00

10.00

5.00

15.00

$44.00

10.00

4.00

10.00

5.00

15.00

$44.00

Grand Total

$88.00

[1]

Taco Tuesday at Café Rio

[2]

Costco food (Cheap!)

How much I spend on lunch every week fluctuates.  This is lighter than what I used to spend weekly, minimum $50.

Let’s say you make $40,000 a year.  This means you make $19.23 an hour [(40,000/52(weeks)=$769.23, $769.23/40(hours/week)] before taxes, benefits, and retirement.   I am going to go ahead and take 25% for those miscellaneous items.  So every hour you’re making about $14.42, which is $576.80 per week.  At this rate, you’re spending 8% (44/576.80) of your weekly earnings in one hour; you’ve almost spent what you make in an hour after taxes on lunch.  I know this is extreme with the numbers, but it is what I do.

On a higher level, think about what you make every week, two weeks or a month and know that you’ve spent $50 in a week, $100 in two weeks, or $200 in a month alone on lunch.  Now, I am not going to lie.  It’s so difficult for me to bring my lunch to work.  Really difficult, so this is what I have done this week.

Monday [1]

Tuesday[2]

Wednesday [3]

Thursday

Friday

Total

5.99

7.83

2.16

4.99

4.99

$25.96

Grand Total

$25.96

[1]

Fresh & Easy lunch

[2]

In & Out

[3]

Costco food (Cheap!)

Although cutting the expense completely would be most beneficial, I have found a way to reduce how much I spend.  I spent $18.04 (44-25.96) less than what I normally spend a week.  Woohooooo!!!

By purchasing my lunch from the grocery store daily, I get to enjoy the great outdoors and choose my lunch.  I have commitment issues and hate the lunch room and eating at my desk; my lunch needs to be different EVERYday.

Grocery stores are the best places to buy lunches; they don’t charge tax on food!  Fresh & Easy sell little meals you can just pop in the microwave and they are BAMB.  Monday, I had the Butternut Squash Risotto (s/o @sooelite), Tuesday, In & Out, Wednesday, Pepperoni pizza, Thursday, Southwest Salad and lentil soup, and tomorrow, I will have a Baby Spinach Salad with lentil soup (I didn’t say I am a healthy eater). Never buy a drink for lunch, unless it’s Veggie Grill’s Strawberry Lemonade and iced tea.  You don’t need the sugar and sodium anyhow.  Next time you’re out, look at how much a drink costs, it’s practically half the cost of your meal.  No gracias.  Water, please.

I hope those calculations above help you figure out how much you are being paid per hour.  It’s helpful in negotiating and changing jobs.  When going from hourly to salary, people get confused because a job will throw a seemingly large figure at you, but when you reduce it to the hour, it’s not much.  Don’t get bamboozled.  Know how to calculate your salary to the hour and PTO.

You’d be surprised how often companies cheat their employees on their PTO because people do not don’t take the time to monitor it.  First, you need to speak with your HR department to figure out the accrual rate for PTO.  My job accrues PTO at a rate of 4.62 hours per pay period, so every pay period I should see my PTO account increase 4.62 hours, unless I’ve used some off it.  Then, I have to net what I’ve used with what I earned.  Don’t you hate looking at it?  For every 80 hours I work, I only get 4.62 hours of PTO.  Such is life!

I hope something in this post can be of use to you.

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Beef. It’s what’s for dinner

21 Nov

Since it’s Thanksgiving, I would to thank God for two amazing brothers.  For this post, I’m thankful namely for my big brother because he is an amazing cook.  My brother, the Dos Equis Man, inspired me to do this post.  Love you, brother!

My brother typically cooks beef roast during the holidays on the grill.  It is a-mazing.  While I know he will not give me all the recipe details, I know he gets up super early to light the grill and literally injects the meat with seasonings using a syringe.  Although many people focus on rubs, he makes sure the meat is seasoned throughout.

You will need:

    Plenty Charcoal (if using a charcoal grill)
    Syringe
    A 15-pound beef roast at room temperature

Beef Roast Rub:

    Oil
    Freshly ground pepper
    Garlic powder
    Onion Powder
    Sea Salt

Liquid Seasoning for injecting the roast:

    Liquid smoke (4 teaspoons)
    3 cups beef broth (for liquid)
    Ground Montreal Steak Seasoning (shortcut to all the seasonings)

Instructions

This will take about 4-5 hours on the grill. 

    Inject the roast about 2 inches apart with liquid seasoning mixture.  Massage the roast to move the liquid around.  Coat the roast evenly using the oil, salt, garlic and onion powder, and pepper.  Use your discretion making sure the roast in covered with seasoning.  Preheat the grill 20 minutes prior to cooking time to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Please read tips for grill types.  Once the grill is hot, place the roast on the grill on the flame to sear for 2 minutes on each side.  Then, move the beef roast to the FLAMELESS area and allow roast to cook.  If you are using a gas grill, turn the burner off where you intend on cooking the beef roast while keeping the other burners on.  Flip the roast once halfway into cooking.  Let the roast cook for approximately 5 hours.  This will result in a well done roast.  Remove the roast from heat and let it rest.  DO NOT begin cutting the meat until it has rested for about 15 minutes.  The juices are at work on the inside.

 

Tips

    If using a gas grill, use wood chips to give that smoky flavor.

    If using a charcoal grill, put the coals on one side of the grill.

    If you do not have a coffee grinder to powder the Montreal Steak seasoning, use garlic powder, onion powder, salt, freshly ground, and a dash of cayenne pepper.

    Open the grill only to flip the meat once or twice.  DO NOT open the grill repeatedly; the heat escapes and roast is cooked on the grill via indirect heat.

    To gauge the temperature without a thermometer, hold your open palm about 5 inches above the grill rack; the fire is high (450-500°F) if you have to move your hand in 2 seconds, medium (350-400°F) if you have to move your hand in 5 seconds, and low (250-300°F) if you have to move your hand in 10 seconds.

Tablescapes and Table Setting

17 Nov

It’s been a long time, guys.  I hope you have been well.  I KNOW you are blessed because you are reading this entry.  Pow!

I only have interest in tablescapes and table setting during the holidays.  Otherwise, I don’t really care.  Just hand me my plate.  But it doesn’t hurt to know how to set a table and make people feel invited and special when the time comes. 

A few things…

Don’t overwhelm your guests with a cluttered table.  Keep it simple, thoughtful, nice and neat. If you can, set a table with real dishes (glass and white ceramics).  Choose three materials you love (clear glass, ceramic, metal, and colored glass/painted ceramic) to build upon.  I think Chinet has plastic decorative plates one can use in lieu of ceramic plates.  Right now, all fall items are on clearance because the season is coming to a close.  Check out Michaels and Home Goods; these two stores truly cater to the seasons.

One of the best things one can do is personalize their table setting.  I love personalized anything as a guest.  Here are some random ideas and things I love when visiting for dinner:

    ∙ Folded napkins placed in my plate (Do away with those 80s napkin rings)
    ∙ Menu cards, so guests know what’s available
    ∙ Name tag placed in my folded napkin
    ∙ White Plates (they make food look awesome)
    ∙ Candles (nutmeg, fresh baked cookies, brown sugar, pumpkin pie, cranberry)
    ∙ Appetizers near the area I enter the home or where I will seat prior to dinner being ready (check out Meg’s post for appetizers)
    ∙ Fresh Flowers/Fresh flower tucked in a napkin
    ∙ Clean home
    ∙ If you have a special dessert, make gift box sized portions to give away to your guests.  Yes, put a name tag.  They will have it as their midnight snack guaranteed.
    ∙ For smaller parties, make dishes they love
    ∙ Low music playing the back ground
    ∙ A place to put my jacket and purse
    • Games
    • To-go containers and bags
    • Specialty holiday drink (non-alcoholic or alcholic). Cider with cinnamon sticks sounds awesome.

Fall is awesome because you have that fresh crisp air, clear skies, and warm cozy colors (golden yellows, rusts, browns, and beiges, sultry wine reds). I’m thinking of cable knit and cashmere right now. That’s literally how fall makes me feel. Here are some tablescapes I liked and they speak to my favs above. I did this from my phone as I always do, so I apologize for the crazy formatting.

DAY 2- Them Side Chicks

16 Nov

Yesterday we took care of the Appetizers (The Jumpoff) for the next few day’s we’ll be addressing the side dishes (side chicks)…

This is one situation where the sides are just as important and relevant as the main. (pardon my extra ratchet humor…it’s just one of those days) Last year’s Thanksgiving Recipe Blitz included greens and green beans, this year we will be switching it up and using one of my favorite borrowed recipes from The Queen of Butter herself, Paula Deen.

This recipe is so easy to make, even those cooking novices can ace this dish with sheer ease.

Paula Deen’s Broccoli Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I sometimes use 1/2 cup mayo, 1/4 cup of Miracle Whip, 1/4 cup of cream cheese)
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar (I like using a blend of cheeses like the Kraft Mexican Cheese Mix)
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups crushed crackers (or 2 cups of panko bread crumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Season according to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine broccoli, mayonnaise, cheese, soup and eggs. Mix well with a metal spoon. Place the mixture in the prepared baking dish. Top with the crushed crackers and pour the melted butter evenly over the crackers. Bake for 35 minutes or until set and browned.

Appease that Appetite! The Ultimate Appetizers

15 Nov

While preparing Thanksgiving dinner timing is EVERYTHING! Whether or not you prep days in advance or you choose to tackle the cooking the day of, there is always something, some dish or some one that throws you off schedule. Don’t panic though, we have the answer to your delayed main course right here! Appetizers are the key to any successful holiday or any party in general. While your guests are sprawled around the house chatting, watching the game (*ahem* Cowboys) or just patiently waiting you don’t want the pressure of rumbling stomachs to cause added pressure. These quick, simple and easy appetizer recipes will not only please your guests but will be a lifesaver for your weary cooking mind.

Ultimate Onion Dip

Don’t bother picking up that powdered onion dip and ruffles chips for your guests, this easy recipe will not only impress their stomachs, it will impress their eyes as well!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup miracle whip
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

(adjust the seasoning’s of course to your taste, if you’re like me I put a little bit of creole seasoning and lemon pepper to add an extra kick of flavor)

Directions

In a saute pan over medium heat add oil, heat and add onions and salt. Cook the onions until they are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Mix the rest of the ingredients, and then add the cooled onions. Refrigerate and stir again before serving.

CROSTINI 2 Ways

Simple Crostini Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 baguette (8 to 10 ounces), sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 60 slices)
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange baguette slices on two large rimmed baking sheets; brush both sides with oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through (if undersides are not browning, turn crostini over once during baking). Let cool on baking sheets. Top crostini with desired toppings, and serve.

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 cup thawed, chopped frozen spinach
  • 11/2 cups thawed, chopped frozen artichoke hearts
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions

Boil spinach and artichokes in 1 cup of water until tender and drain. Discard liquid. Heat cream cheese in microwave for 1 minute or until hot and soft. Stir in rest of ingredients and serve hot.

Tomato & Basil Bruschetta

Ingredients

  • 2 large cloves garlic, cracked away from skin
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 3 small plum tomatoes, halved and seeded
  • 20 fresh basil leaves
  • Coarse salt

Directions

Chop seeded tomatoes and place in a small bowl. Pile basil leaves on top of one another and roll into a log. Thinly slice basil into green confetti and loosely combine with tomatoes. Add a drizzle of oil and a little coarse salt to the bowl and gently toss tomatoes and basil to coat. Pile toasts around the bowl of topping. Place a spoon to scoop topping in bowl and serve.

Now for one of The GWC’s favorite party anecdotes…a good cocktail! Although guests should ALWAYS bring a courtesy bottle of wine it is your job as the host/hostess to provide them with a great (sometimes stiff) libation. What better way to simmer every one down and take the focus off the turkey still in the oven and put the focus on enjoying the evening?

The Georgian

2 oz of Jack Daniel’s Whiskey

½ oz peach liqueur

2 oz of Sprite

3 sprigs of fresh mint

In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle 1 sprig of mint with peach liqueur. Add Gentleman Jack to mixing glass then strain into a highball glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with remaining mint sprigs.

Day 1 Down, 6 More to Go!!!

Happy Cooking!

THANKSGIVING RECIPE BLITZ!!!

15 Nov

Back to you by popular demand, The Good Wives have once again dug through our family’s recipe box, watched endless cooking shows and searched through dozens of cookbooks to find you our favorite Thanksgiving Dinner recipes that will surely make your feast a treat! Whether or not you’re participating in the kitchen for the first time or if you are taking on the tedious task of hosting Thanksgiving dinner all of these recipes are sure to tantalize the palettes of your guests! Enjoy!

Harris’ Perfect Lasagna

4 Oct

Every Friday, a group of my good friends and I join together for what we call “The Wine Down”. Between amazing food, great friends, good laughs and great wine we are always bound to have a good time. Although hosting a group of 10 or 15 people can be fun, it can also be a bit pricey and the preparation could be time consuming unless you budget and plan responsibly. One of the easiest and budget friendly meals to make is LASAGNA. With this recipe from Kiyana Harris you are sure to fill those tummy’s with a delicious meal without breaking your budget. The estimated price of this meal is about $30 but it feeds up to 15 people. Throw some Caesar salad in the mix and voila….YOU HAVE A DINNER PARTY!

RECIPE:

Ingredients:

1 package of dry lasagna noodles  (you will only use about 1/2 to 3/4 of the package)
1 egg
1 lb of ground chicken (can also use turkey or beef)
1 jar of tomato sauce (I used Ragu “Flavored with Meat”)
1 cup of ricotta cheese
1 cup of mozarella cheese, shredded  (I also tried it with the Italian cheese assortment and with a sharp cheddar.  Feel free to experiment with the cheeses!)
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
1 package of pepperoni (sliced)
This recipe based on a 9×9 glass/Pyrex dish.  Makes 10-15 servings.
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Boil noodles (add salt to taste).  Drain and rinse with cool water.
3. Brown meat until no longer pink, adding seasoning salt, oregano, pepper, and onion powder to taste.
4. Stir in 1/2 cup of tomato sauce until meat is well coated.
5. Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of tomato sauce into lasagna dish.  Spread over bottom and sides of dish to create a thin layer.
6. Lay one layer of noodles in bottom of dish (cut noodles to fit dish if necessary).  Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of tomato sauce and spread to cover noodles.
7. Add half of your ground meat as the next layer.  Cover first layer of lasagna noodles with meat.  Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese over meat and top with a handful of mozarella/assorted cheese.
8. Lay another layer of noodles on top of meat.  Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of tomato sauce and spread to cover noodles.
9. In a small mixing bowl, mix ricotta cheese and egg.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a dash of pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of oregano.  Mix well until egg is well blended with cheese.
10. Spread ricotta cheese mixture evenly on top of noodles and sauce.  Spread pepperoni slices on top of cheese (you can use as many as you’d like, but I recommend that they not overlap.  The taste was a bit overwhelming when I tried too much pepperoni).
11. Lay another layer of noodles on top of ricotta/pepperoni.  Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of tomato sauce and spread to cover noodles.
12. Use the other half of your ground meat as the next layer.  Cover noodles with meat.  Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese over meat and top with a handful of mozarella/assorted cheese.
13. Lay another layer of noodles on top.  Spoon the rest of the tomato sauce to thickly cover noodles.
14. Use the remainder of your mozarella/assorted cheese and paremsan to cover the top of the lasagna.
15. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.