iPhone Friday: Menu Planning on MealBoard

If you’re like me, you try to stick closely to a grocery budget every month.  Unless you like to approach each meal like it’s an episode of “Chopped”, having a clearly defined plan and a well thought-out grocery list is ESSENTIAL to keeping your food bills on track.  Two weeks ago, I purchased MealBoard, an iPhone app that’s going to keep all that together for me.

I’ve been desperate for an easier way to plan my meals and make my grocery list each week.  At $1.99, I thought MealBoard was definitely worth trying.  It does requires a lot of setup, (Trying to remember every dish I’ve ever made to input into the system is an ongoing project), but the longer I use it, the more I customize it, the bigger a timesaver it becomes!

The idea is pretty basic.  You just input your recipes into the app, schedule your menus on a weekly, bi-weekly, tri-weekly, or even monthly basis, And it uses the information to generate a detailed grocery list for you, right on your phone.

As you input recipes, you can specify the specific sections of the grocery store where items are found. Do you shop in a weird grocery store like Aldi?  No problem, your grocery store information is COMPLETELY customizable… Actually, EVERYTHING about this app is crazy customizable, right down to the color of the interface.  (I chose green!)  You might also notice from my list, that you can even enter a dollar value for each grocery item.  Maybe someday, I’ll get around to inputing that information, so I won’t have any surprises at the checkout.  There are settings for coupons, too, but I haven’t played with that feature, yet.

Before I chose to risk those precious two dollars on this gamble, I was concerned about the amount of time it would take to input recipes on my phone using a tiny touch screen.  This is not a problem with MealBoard, as their website offers you a custom log-in for recipe input.  Now, you enter grandma’s secret chutney recipe on your old fashioned laptop keyboard, lickety split!

In this case, I wanted to add a neat cottage cheese bread recipe I’d come across on a blog.  It was a simple matter of copy and paste!

Now, I can view or print my recipe from their website interface…

But, of course, it’s handier to do a simple “Cloud Sync” within the app, so all the information appears on my phone, and is ready to use in my weekly meal plans and be imported into my grocery list.

Within the app, you can even set up reminders to go off before the time the meal has been scheduled for, which is handy, if you’re like me and always forget to thaw your meats!

If inputing all your recipes still feels a little intimidating, you’ll be thrilled to know that Meal Board has a list of SEVERAL major recipe websites, (such as AllRecipes and The Food Network) that it works with directly to make that data entry a breeze!  For example, I was watching Giada mixing up a mad batch of quinoa the other day.  A quick search on The Food Network’s website brought up the recipe from that episode.  I just copied the page’s URL and pasted it into the MealBoard website.  BOOM!  The recipe is all right there!  No typing necessary!

If you’ve got two bucks burning a hole in your pocket, look up MealBoard, buy it, and thank me later.  I give it five stars!

Vegetarianish

For a long time, I’ve been friends with vegetarians and part time vegetarians, never really thinking seriously about taking up the lifestyle for myself.  Historically, I’ve planned almost all our meals around meat.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I even thought to question our habit.  After trying my friend’s black bean burger recipe, my husband and I were ranting and raving at how satisfied it made us feel.  “You know, what if we ate vegetarian more often?” I suggested.  “Meat is SO expensive.”

That’s when my husband shocked my socks off:  “What if we just ate vegetarian ALL the time?  I don’t really care about meat that much.”  WHAT?!  I was thrilled!!!

Of course, we both still love a tasty rare steak, we always eat meat when we’re dining out, and I’m still fixing meat dishes at home two or three times a week.  But, part time vegetarianism definitely has some perks:

  • I feel so hip when I’m cooking and eating vegetarian!  (As much as everyone hates them, I’m a hipster wannabe.)
  • Is there anything more disgusting than raw chicken?  My gag inducing adventures with that bird are greatly reduced.
  • This doesn’t line up with my ideology at all, but I really do smile thinking about happy barnyard animals that didn’t have to die for my meal.
  • Now I’m going to sound goody two shoes, but eating a bean-centric meal makes me feel a little more connected to the developing world, where meals of beans and rice are the norm rather than the exception.  It reminds me that we really don’t need as much as we have, and I’m grateful.
  • My guts feel better after a vegetarian meal!  I’m starting to get used to that light but satisfied feeling after supper.  It’s addictive!
  • My grocery trips feel better with a mostly vegetarian meal plan!  It frees up some margin in our budget so I can stock up on sale items, or try something new.  Last week I bought nectarines for the first time!

My favorite vegetarian meal is still the black bean burger (pictured above) that started this new habit.  Treated with mayo, lettuce, onion, and tomato on a fluffy whole wheat bun… You won’t even miss the meat!  I always tweak the recipe, but you can still check out Stephanie’s version here.

Make Your Own Tea Bags! (Could this be a great Christmas gift idea???)

As I’m sure you could tell from last week’s post about Zombies and Jane Austen, I kind of have a thing about tea.  I was so thrilled when I saw this tutorial for how to Make Your Own Tea Bags from A Beautiful Mess.

I have never experimented with loose leaf tea, but now that I’m playing around with my own herb garden.  I wonder how difficult it would be to grow and dry my own chamomile or peppermint and then make my own tea bags to give as Christmas gifts!  Wouldn’t that be lovely gift paired with a vintage tea cup and saucer?  I probably don’t have time to try this THIS year, but it definitely is a fascinating concept!  I want to try it out!  Maybe I should just go buy some loose leaf tea supplies and come up with some of my own blends!  Wouldn’t that be cool?!

Here’s the Whole Wheat Bread I make!

 

 

So, here’s the deal.  I’ve been hitting the rice sock HARD over the past couple days, but today I felt good enough to stand up for a whole five minutes and make this recipe posted by Mangio da Sola: 100% Whole Wheat Bread from Artisan Bread in “Five” Minutes.

I don’t usually post about food, but I’ve done this recipe several times, and it’s a hit.

A few tips for you:

  • Yes, it really does only take five minutes to mix up.  I put on disposable gloves and mix (but do not knead) with my hands to make sure it’s a quick process.  I just use a large mixing bowl and cover it with a cloth napkin while the dough rises.  If I refrigerate the dough, I just cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap.  No big deal!  Jorge Garcia (Hurley from LOST) loves to make bread, too, but he uses those disposable plastic shower caps to cover his mixing bowls!  Brilliant!
  • I do NOT let the bread dough rest after I take it out of the refrigerator, like they recommend.  I use this for sandwich bread, and the crumb/crust consistency is more like that of a packaged sandwich bread when I go straight from fridge to oven.  Today, however, I’m baking straight off the counter, and have had good results with that method as well.
  • I freeze formed unbaked loaves in plastic wrap.  They take about a day to thaw in the fridge, then bake up beautifully!  One batch of this dough makes about two loaves.
  • I cut into VERY thin slices with an electric knife.  I try to make the slices about 1/4 inch thick, because this is SUCH a dense bread.  I love it though!  Lettuce, ham, cheddar, tomatoes, mayo or brown mustard!  MMMM!!!  It’s downright gourmet when served up on these slices!  Tonight, I’m serving pulled pork on it!
  • I store the cut slices in a bag in my fridge.  There’s no preservatives in this loaf, so I do my best to keep it fresh as long as possible!  We always run out before it goes stale or gets moldy as long as it’s stored in the fridge!

Who knew it could be so easy to be so fancy!  Also, I broke down the price of all my ingredients, and it costs about 75 cents to make one of these loaves.  That’s a pretty substantial savings over store bought loaves, considering how little effort is put into the recipe!  YUM!

QUICK! Make an Apron out of a Dish Towel!

OH MY!  I was already totally smitten with these exact dish towels I saw at Target just a few days ago.  And then “Then she made…” offered this quick gift idea:  a dish towel apron!  I’ve seen dishtowels made into the sort of aprons that only cover the bottom half, but this design is FABULOUS!!!!

I’m sorry, but there’s no gifting where this project concerned!  I want this all to myself!  Go check out the blog and see what she did with some bargain Walmart dishtowels, too!  I need!  Plus, how much easier would this be to launder than some of my bulkier aprons?!  I could have a fresh kitchen apron for every day of the week!  Cheap themed aprons for every holiday!  Ooooh!  I want a harvest one with owls on it now!

The only thing I would change, would be to add a bit more length to the ribbon, so that I could wrap it all the way around and tie a bow in the front.  I just like bows. and belts. and belted bows.

Friday Night is Date Night! MOUNTAIN DEW!!!

I can’t believe I almost forgot my weekly date night post!  I love these things!  Particularly for my own reference when I really want to do something with the hubby on the cheap!

This week, why not get some of this:

And one of these:

And a whole lotta THIS:

Or, of course, any caffeinated beverage of your choice!  The results?  You’ll be wide awake and ridiculously slap happy long after the kiddos are in bed.  You can’t buy the kind of memories that are made when your high and drunk on caffeine!  Just don’t OVERDO it.  I mean, there’s nothing worse than truly WANTING to sleep and being unable to, and people have literally died of caffeine overdose!  Put the chocolate covered expresso beans away.  I think the perfect mix is to just drink like it’s morning instead of night time!  In my family, that’s like… one 16 oz soda a piece.  And make sure you have no plans the next day.  Your kids will be sure to punish you, but it’s worth it!  Trust me!  But there’s one more step!

Get yourself some of these:

When my hubby and I did this accidentally a couple weeks ago, and we actually had way more fun laying in bed wide awake showing each other those stupid LOL Cats on our phones than we would have had we gone out to Olive Garden or something!  (Why are LOL Cats so much more hilarious when you’re sleep deprived?)  The next day we slacked around the house till we recovered.  So worth it.  That’s why I think we’ll have to “accidentally” do this again!

Make your own tea tags! (And have a tea party! [And invite me! {And get some of that Good Earth stuff!}])

 

 

This time of year, I become slightly obsessed with tea.  Sometimes I just do chamomile and honey.  I’m also a big fan of the original flavor Good Earth tea, with nothing.  But I also appreciate a good British Breakfast tea served up with cream and sugar in a floofy looking cup and saucer!  Ask you can see, that’s why I love this DIY from Freckled Nest!

But, I must insist, if you’re going to have a tea party, do it right!  Rent some bonnet movies (anything based on a Jane Austen novel), and, for goodness sakes, get or make some fancy scones!

I think a Pride and Prejudice with Zombies tea party could make for a very memorable Halloween party next month!  These tags could be changed up to be incredibly spooky!