Beef Stroganoff

Vegetarians can easily substitute cooked lentils for beef, and vegans are gonna have to make their own substitutions. Sorry, folks! Beef stroganoff is something my mom has made since forever. It’s a Russian recipe, and therefore the whitest of white people food. There are very few ingredients: 1 pound ground beef, half a large onion, diced, 15 to 20 mushrooms, chopped coarsely, 1 can cream of mushroom soup (a traditional Russian ingredient), and 8 ounces of sour cream (I used light, but you can use whatever kind you like. Use full fat! Be a rebel!). My mom always makes it over egg noodles, but Hubby and I like it over white rice. If you want to use rice you need 1 cup (precooked), if you want noodles, you’ll have to figure it out yourself (Dammit, Jim! I’m a blogger, not a food scientist!)

Step 1: Get your beef started browning in a pan, get rice or noodles started cooking.
Step 2: Start chopping onions. Hubby likes his diced small, and I like them in large chunks, so we compromised. I cut them into enormous pieces because I’m the boss of the world.
Step 3: Drain the beef when it’s done browning (or don’t, I’m not a cop).
Step 4: Add onions to beef, keep sauteing.
Step 5: Start laboriously washing mushrooms (it’s totally worth it though).
Step 6: Chop the mushrooms. I like big chunks (probably because they take less time to chop), but cut them however small you desire.
Step 7: Add mushrooms to pan, cook them also.
Step 8: Once your veggies are as cooked as you want, turn off the heat and stir in your cream of mushroom soup and sour cream.
Step 9: Drain your noodles, or fluff your rice.
Step 10: Put carb of choice in bowl, add stroganoff, and eat!

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I didn’t take pictures of all the interim steps, because if you’re sitting there thinking “But what do chopped up mushrooms look like?!?!” This is not the blog for you. This is a blog for…I’m not sure exactly…but probably shut-ins with lots of time on their hands. I know it looks like a gray mass, but that’s generally what white people foods look like. Also, I’m not a food stylist. I always take the pictures when I’m starving, right before I eat the food, which is probably a bad choice, but meh. You can take pretty pictures when you make it. The recipe takes about 20 minutes to make from start to finish, and makes servings for probably 6 normal people, or just 3 for me and Hubby. You could add some garlic, salt, or green onions, but anything else would probably be BLASPHEMY!!!

October 27, 2013. Tags: , , , , . Cooking. 1 comment.

Thrifty Halloween Costumes

Some people wait until the last second to get their Halloween costume. Running out to Spirit or Halloween Express the day before a party is not thrifty or creative. You can easily spend upwards of $50 on something you’ll wear once! That’s just crazy talk. Your first stop for costume items should be your own closet. Do you have any interesting items of clothing, or something you rarely wear? Maybe you have an old prom dress, a feather boa, or a fedora you bought, but were never bold enough to wear. Look at these items and use them as a jumping-off point. You can also combine different clothing items that don’t normally go together. You have 50 scarves? Wear them all, all over you and be an old-style burlesque dancer (this is a viable costume in Texas, where it will likely be 80 degrees on Halloween). Still no ideas?

Search friends’ closets (with their knowledge, of course). Maybe one has a red trench coat, and you have a red hat: Bam! Carmen Sandiego costume! Don’t forget that a costume of your opposite gender is also an option. Even a terrible version of a guy dressed as The Little Mermaid is hilarious, so keep those possibilities in mind.

Next stop for ideas, components, accessories, or even whole costumes: Thrift stores. All those people that bought last minute costumes in prior years gave them away, and you can profit from it! Thrift stores are FULL of Halloween costumes, including some brand new items, and they cost way less than at the Halloween stores.

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Still need inspiration? Are there any celebrities, cartoon characters, or famous people you resemble? What are some topical ideas you could represent? Maybe you could just wear a suit with a name tag that says “Government” and go around “shutting down” conversations all night long. Look back over some of the big news stories of the year. You can also just google Halloween costume ideas. You can also go back through my archives for some amazingly witty ideas, because I’m great.

Halloween 2012

Halloween 2011

Halloween 2010

Halloween Costume Ideas #1

Halloween Costume Ideas #2

Halloween Costume Ideas #3

Post-Apocalyptic Costumes

More Post-Apocalyptic Costumes

Cross Dressing (for girls, sorry dudes)

This made me realize 1) I have been blogging for a long time! and 2) I really do love Halloween, obviously. Costumes don’t have to be expensive, or a big ordeal. Just do something fun!

October 23, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Thriftiness is Cool. 3 comments.

Scones

I have a very dear friend I trade books with as often as possible. She is responsible for me having read some truly awful books, that we then mock together. However, she also gives me awesome books, to make up for the terrible ones. The best thing she’s ever given me is The Complete Tightwad Gazette. It’s a resource I have read through a few times, and refer back to frequently. Some of the information is a little dated, since it’s from the 90’s, but the overall concepts and the majority of the ideas are extremely useful.  I would recommend it to anyone trying to save money, whether you’re just getting started, or consider yourself a veteran penny pincher. Obviously, it’s right up my alley.

This scone recipe came from the Tightwad Gazette. I’m not generally much of a baker. Hubby and I don’t eat a lot of carbs in general, and for some reason I’m not very good at it. I think baking requires a little more science than I’m capable of, but I keep trying, periodically. I have muffins in the oven right now, and they are nothing to brag about. They taste ok, but never really plumped up. Whatever, I’ll eat them. Here’s an actual recipe to follow:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup uncooked oatmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup softened margarine
1/2 cup raisins (I used dried cranberries)
3/4 cup sour milk (or milk with 2 tsp of vinegar added)
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix dry ingredients; cut in margarine and raisins. Stir in enough sour milk just to moisten. Divide the dough in half. Flour hands and pat dough into two circles on a greased cookie sheet about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into quarters. Bake for 10 minutes. Brush on egg and then bake until golden brown. Serve with honey, margarine, or jam.

I was making these for a vegan friend, so I simply left off the egg. I don’t know what purpose it serves, other than to make them pretty? I also checked to make sure I was using vegan margarine. Overall they came out fine. Scones are rather plain, and you can see there’s no sugar in the recipe. I guess that’s why British people cover them in jam and clotted cream. When Mi Madre makes hers, she sprinkles cinnamon and sugar over the top, and I should have probably done the same.

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I know these look kind of weird, but that’s because I added chocolate to the dough for the one on the right. I didn’t add enough for the flavor to be evident, just enough to make it looked burned. This kind of thing is why I don’t bake often! But if you want a simple recipe to bring to a brunch, these are easy to make (follow the actual recipe, unlike me). Bring some jam also, and you’re golden.

October 19, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Book Reviews, Cooking. 2 comments.

So you’re thinking about getting pregnant

This is not going to be a “birds and the bees” type post. If you need to learn how to make a baby, 1) you are too young to be reading this! Go ask your parents and make them uncomfortable, or 2) you went through an “Abstinence Only” school program. In that case I empathize, but there’s probably a “Baby-making for Dummies” out there that is far better equipped to educate you than I am. This post is my list of all the things you should do BEFORE making the choice to get knocked up. Also, I’m just pretty much addressing the gals here. Life doesn’t change much for guys, at least until after the kiddo is born, so they have more time to study up.

1) Eat all the forbidden pregnancy foods – Gorge yourself on raw sushi and oysters, lavish in hot dogs and deli meat, drink mimosas every day, wallow in soft cheeses and unpasteurized dairy products, but still avoid tuna because mercury is bad. Eat sushi until you’re so sick of it you won’t WANT it for nine months. There is a ton of stuff you can’t have, so enjoy it now.

2) Detox from any addictions – You’re going to have to cut out the caffeine, nasal spray, cigarettes, and other drugs, so start weaning yourself off now. Obviously if you’re on a medication prescribed by your doctor, check with said doctor about pregnancy and all that jazz. I’m not a doctor, so ask your professional. I can tell you that coming off my regular dose of caffeine was really awful. The first trimester you will be insanely tired, as though you’re on Nyquil the whole time, but have to stay awake. Add lack of caffeine and withdrawal headaches to that, and it was torture.

3) Prepare for the sleepiness – You won’t want to do much but sleep, but you still need to eat. You’re not at the “eating for two” stage yet, so don’t go overboard, but you still need some fuel in your system. For me, eating actually helped alleviate some of the sleepiness, and eating good food, like veggies and protein, helped the most. In anticipation of the debilitating sleepiness you’re about to experience, make and freeze several meals in advance. Soups and stews are great for this. Keep in mind you might be struggling with nausea as well, so try to stick to foods you can make yourself eat even when you don’t feel like eating. You might also have strange food aversions, like you suddenly can’t stand chicken, so don’t stock up on any one thing.

4) Prepare for pregnancy brain – if you don’t already keep some kind of calendar and To Do list, you might want to start. You will forget things, constantly. I have always had a pretty bad memory, and I thought I was fairly well adapted to it. My brain has surprised even me in its sudden uselessness. I suddenly have trouble typing: I hit the right keys, just in random order. It’s incredibly frustrating. Fortunately, most people are pretty understanding. I forgot the word Bacos the other day and asked Hubby if he wanted “Meat Sprinkles” on his baked potato.

5) Read “What to Expect when you’re Expecting” or another pregnancy book of your choice – There are all kinds of bizarre things that can and will happen to you while pregnant, so it’s best to know in advance what to expect. Hopefully you can prepare for things like swollen feet, stuffed nasal passages, and suddenly giant boobs before they occur. Read the most horrifying parts out loud to your spouse/partner/impregnater to guilt them into doing things for you.

6) Start a journal – There are sweet, beautiful, hilarious, disgusting, and interesting things that happen during pregnancy, and you will NOT remember them. You have pregnancy brain, so start writing stuff down. It doesn’t have to be every day; I just write down when something worth remembering, like the meat sprinkles incident, occurs. I have already looked back at what I wrote six months ago and thanked past me for taking the time to write stuff down. You will appreciate it, and your kid might also, when they’re old enough to not be grossed out about it.

Obviously getting pregnant is a huge decision, and one you should actually DECIDE on, not just allow to occur. I’m not here to pressure you into getting knocked up; kids aren’t the right choice for everyone. I’m hoping that once you have made the well-thought-out choice to have kids, this article can help prepare you for the horrors that await. If I wanted to discourage you from getting pregnant, I would just leave this post unedited, with all of my ridiculous typos, so you can witness the ravages of pregnancy brain first hand! There’s no better birth control than pregnancy, but you should still go into it knowing what to expect.

UPDATE: I forgot (preggo brain strikes again), get in shape! The better shape you’re in, the better you’ll bounce back from pregnancy, and the more active you’ll be able to be during the pregnancy. Also, start working your arms out NOW in preparation for carrying around your precious bundle. I practiced by carrying my cats around. I figure that way I get experience with a wiggly thing trying to escape, which is more realistic than a free weight. I’ll continue to update this post as I remember things. Assuming I remember I run a blog.

October 1, 2013. Tags: , , , , . Baby Stuff. Leave a comment.