Favorite meal of September… so far.

Cody and I have been strictly adhering to the meal plan we put together at the beginning of the month in an effort to save as much money as possible while I work on seeking out alternative sources of income. Last night, we made Fruity Turkey-Rice Pilaf from one of our favorite cookbooks, Betty Crocker's Healthy New Choices: A Fresh Approach to Eating Well. It's loaded with lean protein, fiber- and antioxidant-rich dried fruit, and yummy wild rice pilaf with herbs. The recipe is so easy, and the leftovers are delicious! I ended up with some extra rice pilaf, so I added more turkey and fruit and we were fed well two nights in a row. Since I didn't have green onions on hand, I used chopped white onion and it was a great substitute. I wish I had a picture to share, but take my word for it- it looks as good as it tastes!

1/2 lb. ground turkey breast
4 medium green onions
2 cups water
1 package (6 3/4 oz.) quick-cooking long grain and wild rice mix seasoned with herbs
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries (I used cherry-flavored cranberries- yum!)
1/2 cup chopped dried peaches or apricots
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cinnamon (I used both)

Spray 3-qt. saucepan with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Cook turkey and onions in saucepan about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until turkey is no longer pink. Stir in water and seasoning packet from rice mix. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally; reduce heat to low.

Stir in rice, cherries, peaches and nutmeg. Cover and simmer about 5 minutes or until rice is tender and fruits are heated through.

Makes 4 servings.

Side note: If you buy a less-expensive but non-quick cooking rice box like we did (the kind that takes 25 minutes or so to cook), you have to alter the cooking process a bit, otherwise you may end up with mushy fruit and overcooked turkey. It's a good idea to start making the rice separately while the turkey and onions are cooking. After the turkey is browned and the onions are cooked, I added the fruit and nutmeg/cinnamon and let that heat through while the rice finished. Then I added the rice to the turkey/fruit mixture and let it cook an additional five minutes.

Voila! Super easy, uber healthy, and mega delicious!

This meal is complete enough to serve on its own, or pre-game it with a mixed-green or cucumber salad!

Princess or Pioneer Woman?

When I was at the library the other day, I picked up a great book for Cody called Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
by Meg Meeker. The other night, I started reading it and simply couldn't put it down- in the span of three hours, I had nearly finished the whole thing! Good stuff in there. There were several things that impacted my view of fatherhood and made me reflect on my own upbringing by my dad. It certainly made me thankful for the father I have and the things he has taught me along the way, as well as the things he tried to teach me that I was too stubborn to listen to- but do my best to take heed of now.

The thing that caught my eye the most was when the author discussed the type of woman you want your daughter to become, and she described two types of women: princesses and pioneer women. One thing we do NOT want our daughter to become is a princess- a girl who expects everything to be handed to her and everything to be done for her, and who gives nothing in return. We have seen too much of this going on in society as a whole- especially since my hubby works at a university and observes the spoiled antics of the New MTV Generation (have you SEEN "My Super Sweet Sixteen" or "16 and Pregnant"? This is the garbage they are feeding to our kids?!) on a daily basis, much to his disgust. He says that our kids are coming out of high school and into college with absolutely no idea how to do ANYTHING, and are so helpless and self-absorbed that they can barely function without someone holding their hand. And if they can't do something or if they fail, it is ALWAYS someone else's fault. This is just a general observation- we know there are some kids out there who do not epitomize this stereotype. Thank goodness. But the sense of entitlement really is quite prevalent these days.

The discussion of princess vs. pioneer woman has definitely helped me evaluate my own princess tendencies and redirect my energy toward becoming a truly proficient and productive member of our growing little family and of society in general. I'm not going to lie and say that as an only child who grew up in Scottsdale, I never displayed any princess-ish behavior and I was always a hard worker who had no expectations that my needs would always be met. Anyone who knew me would be quick to correct me and all the smoke I'd be blowing up your… well, you know.

Looking back, in a lot of ways, I was TERRIBLE. Irresponsible, reckless, entitled; and I can say with confidence that I'm still paying for past mistakes. When I look at life now, and I absolutely understand the sacrifices my parents made in the name of stability and provision, my behavior was just laughable. I didn't have parents who just gave me whatever I wanted when I wanted it- I went without my wants many times. But I never understood the value of the things I had because I didn't take the time to appreciate what it took to get them. God knows I do now. And if I can't lead my daughter by example, she would be quick to recognize the hypocrisy of what I would be expecting from her. And I would rather start now than wait until after her arrival when the demands of motherhood overwhelm me from taking on any other new responsibilities. And I am happy to say that I have an amazing dad-to-be on my hands who fully supports this philosophy as well.

So, here are a list of my goals. I'm terrible at goal-setting, but today is all I have for now, so why not jump in head-first and get this show on the road?

  1. Become more proficient at sewing and other crafts
  2. Open up an Etsy store
  3. Become a Virtual Assistant of some kind to generate income from home
  4. Keep on blogging!
  5. Keep a creative journal
  6. Take more pictures
  7. Start a habit of family dinners every night
  8. Support my dear husband in all his endeavors, and lighten his load whenever possible
  9. Use coupons for EVERYTHING
  10. When I need to buy, only buy used or on sale items
  11. Serve the community through our church
  12. Avoid being wasteful
  13. Making "Be resourceful!" my way of life!
  14. Run in the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon next January in order to get back into shape post-baby (I'll probably do the half)
  15. Spend quality time with family and friends
  16. Love God more so that I can teach my little girl who He is and pray that she loves Him too

My goals tend to morph and shift as life unfolds, but these are what they are for now. In light of this, I always enjoy reading "The Wife of Noble Character" from Proverbs 31 for inspiration:

10  A wife of noble character who can find?
       She is worth far more than rubies.

 11 Her husband has full confidence in her
       and lacks nothing of value.

 12 She brings him good, not harm,
       all the days of her life.

 13 She selects wool and flax
       and works with eager hands.

 14 She is like the merchant ships,
       bringing her food from afar.

 15 She gets up while it is still dark;
       she provides food for her family
       and portions for her servant girls.

 16 She considers a field and buys it;
       out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

 17 She sets about her work vigorously;
       her arms are strong for her tasks.

 18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
       and her lamp does not go out at night.

 19 In her hand she holds the distaff
       and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

 20 She opens her arms to the poor
       and extends her hands to the needy.

 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
       for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

 22 She makes coverings for her bed;
       she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
       where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

 24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
       and supplies the merchants with sashes.

 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
       she can laugh at the days to come.

 26 She speaks with wisdom,
       and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

 27 She watches over the affairs of her household
       and does not eat the bread of idleness.

 28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
       her husband also, and he praises her:

 29 "Many women do noble things,
       but you surpass them all."

 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
       but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

 31 Give her the reward she has earned,
       and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

p.s. If Baby Girl gets anything with the word "Princess" on it, it will quickly be burned or returned. Just sayin'. If it says "Pioneer Woman," on the other hand… well, that's a whole other story. She'll wear it loud and proud. Hats off to Pioneer Women everywhere!

Coupons, coupons, coupons!

And more coupons! I am a huge fan of clipping coupons. There is nothing more satisfying than walking out of the grocery store after a long shopping trip and discovering on your receipt that you saved nearly half on your grocery bill. I wanted to share some of the best resources I have found that have helped me save no less than 40% on groceries for our growing family.

First off, when there are some things that you prefer not to buy generic, do your best to buy it using a coupon. One thing I have found, however, is that even with the coupons, sometimes the generic brand is still cheaper. At that point, you won't see the same percentage of savings on your receipt had you used the coupon for the more expensive item, but you won't have spent as much money on the value brand. The coupons are great, but they are cunning, but sometimes they will play mind tricks on you to their advantage. Don't be fooled by their craftiness.

I just spent some time on the Fry's Food Web site, and it was a wealth of coupons and tools designed to help shoppers save money. There are three different coupon sites where you can sign up to have coupons loaded directly on to your shopper's card: P&G Brand Saver, Cellfire, and Shortcuts.com. You simply upload the coupons of your choice, print out your list, and head to the store. Instead of handing the cashier paper coupons, the savings are automatically deducted when you swipe your card. The savings will appear on your receipt as coupons, so you will know where you saved money. Great stuff. Another thing I liked about the Fry's Food site is that the weekly circular is available online, important for me since we don't get it in the mail or in our paper. I always make it a point to match up the coupons I have with items that are already on sale at the store. My current shopping list already has several sale-coupon matches- score!

Another invaluable resource is the Coupon Mom, a great place to go if you want the headache taken out of matching up coupons with in-store sales. She is eager to teach others her secrets to saving money, and provides many, many more sites you can visit for savings galore. You can also download restaurant coupons, sign up for free samples, and find deals at online retailers like Amazon.

I'm so glad there are resources out there like this… especially since someone keeps stealing our Sunday paper right off our driveway! What are your favorite ways to save- at the grocery store and beyond?