February – 2011 – Frugal Novice
Monthly Archives

February 2011

Celebrating Home Winner

Congratulations Hoa! Thanks to everyone who entered!

PF Chang’s Lettuce Wraps – Copycat Recipe

Menu Plan Monday

Goooooood morning, everyone! It’s actually Sunday night as I write this, because there’s no way on earth I’d have the time to write this and get us out the door in the morning. We’ve had a great weekend. After being cooped up in the house almost all week with the flu, it was really nice to get out – the beautiful weather helped, too! Friday night Brian and I actually cooked our belated Valentine’s dinner since I was too sick on Monday night to even think about eating. We made steak with a garlic butter sauce, three-cheese risotto (with a cup of white wine substituted for one of the cups of chicken stock), and chocolate mousse – yum! It was a great meal and we had a lot of fun cooking together. That’s one of our favorite things to do together, because we like to experiment with new recipes.

On to food for this week:

Monday: I’m trying a new recipe that I’m super excited about – Chicken Lettuce Wraps! This is one of my favorite things to get at PF Chang’s or Pei Wei, so I’m hoping this recipe lives up to my expectations. Another perk of this recipe? It’s a slow-cooker recipe (from Make it Fast, Cook it Slow). So I’ll get to come home to dinner waiting for me! Here’s the recipe in case you’d like to try it too:


  • 1 pound chicken tenderloin
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water chestnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 16 romaine lettuce leaves
  • plum sauce (I’ll include the recipe for this below)


  1. Chop the chicken into very small pieces and put into the slow cooker.
  2. Add onion, garlic, and water chestnuts.
  3. Mix in the liquid ingredients and spices.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Serve in lettuce leaves with plum sauce.

To make plum sauce: Combine 1/3 cup plum jam, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon garlic powder.

Tuesday: Chick-Fil-A family night.

Wednesday: Tacos with black beans & rice, plus raw veggies to snack on beforehand.

Thursday: Sour cream chicken, egg noodles, and salad.

Friday: Eating out – I have a coupon for a local grill.

Saturday: Chicken taco soup. Again. I sure make this a lot, don’t I? We love it, though, and I like the idea of having dinner taken care of while we run errands during the day.

Before I go, I have exciting news…. tomorrow is my blog’s birthday! :) When I first started this I had no clue where I’d go with it, but it’s been a BLAST and I’m excited to see where it continues to go. To help celebrate the occasion, I’m giving the site a makeover (for a preview of the new look, go to my Facebook page and click “Welcome” over in the left column). PLUS, I’m going to be posting THREE giveaways AND a photo contest!!

I hope you’ll come by tomorrow to help me celebrate – after all, you’re a huge part of why I’m doing this! Have an absolutely wonderful week, everyone.


Spinach Pesto Pizza Recipe

Brian and I love to cook, so when I was asked if I wanted to review a book on pizza I said, “Of course!”

This book was written by a monk who started making pizzas for his fellow monks as a part of Thursday night haustus. I really enjoyed reading the background of Father Dom – you get the sense of his care for others and his excitement about food. His writing style is relatable and fun to read. That makes for a good book, but a good cookbook has to have great recipes, so we decided to try one of his crust, sauce, and pizza recipes. I settled on the Spinach Pesto Pizza with pesto sauce and Italian-style crust. There were a ton of recipes that sounded really good (like the Denver Omelet pizza) that I’m sure we’ll try in the future.

The dough was easy to make, and would be a fun project to do with kids. The pesto sauce was a little bitter tasting when raw, so I was a little nervous about how this was all going to turn out. After cooking it, though, it was AMAZING. We really enjoyed it a lot (although the boys didn’t care for it) – the pesto provided a mellow flavor base and the lemon juice in it gave it a freshness. The crust was soft and chewy, and we liked it so much we decided this will be our go-to crust from now on.

If you want to make this pizza for yourself, I’m including the recipes here: Continue Reading…

Upcycled Tote Bag Giveaway on 127andChange!

My friend Shea from college is hosting a giveaway for a great tote bag made by Hill Country Hill Tribers on her blog, 127andChange.org.

I had never heard of the HCHT group before, but Shea shared this on her blog: “Many of the artisans of Hill Country Hill Tribers are members of the Hill Tribes who fled persecution in Burma and have come to start a new life as refugees in the Hill Country of Texas. [Their] goal is to help the artisans earn supplemental income and gain marketable skills. By weaving and sewing in their homes and gathering together often, they are remembering the communities from which they came even as they’re creating a new sense of community in this country.”

I love the idea of purchasing products that a) are homemade and b) help a good group of people. Stop over at Shea’s blog to enter her giveaway and also take a minute to read about Shea and Jonathan’s journey to adopting a child from Ethiopia. Find out more about the Hill Country Hill Tribers here.

Friendly Friday 2/18

Welcome to Friendly Friday!

Remember, YOU can host the link list on your blog, too! Just get the InLinkz code and copy it directly into your post. The code is different every week, so be sure to get the new code when hosting Friendly Friday on your blog. Hosting the list is a great way to get even more traffic to your blog and make Friendly Friday more beneficial for everyone. Continue Reading…

Similac Baby Journal iPhone App

I love my iPhone and use it in a lot of capacities: phone calls and texts, of course, but also surfing the web, e-mailing, scheduling appointments, finding recipes, and entertaining my children. The variety of apps available is astounding, and there are some that are especially useful.

The Similac Baby Journal app is one that I seriously wish had been around when our boys were born, and one I know I’ll be using if we end up having a third child in the future.

When the boys were born, we printed out a sheet to keep track of feedings & diaper changes, because we were so exhausted that it was hard to remember anything. Well, this app takes that one step further and allows you not only to keep track of bottles or breastfeeding (including which side you start feeding on) but also to track trends over a period of day to see how the amount of consumption or length of feeding is changing.

With the bottle feeding screen, you can select how many ounces you start with and then how many you end with.

One of my very favorite aspects about this program is a little button you can push that will connect you with a phone call to get immediate feeding advice. If your child just won’t eat or you’re having trouble getting a latch with nursing, it can be frustrating. Having help at your fingertips like that is invaluable.

You’re also able to keep track of dirty & wet diapers with a touch of the screen:

And you can even keep track of sleep patterns by touching a button on the screen at the start and end of each session:

Along with all the other tools there’s a screen with tips and advice. I like this aspect a lot too, but think it will be even more useful as the resource pool gets larger.

These tools are all really valuable, well-designed and user-friendly. It’s a free app, too – and you can’t really beat free! I would pay for this, though – it’s that useful. If you’d like to get the app on your iPhone or iPod touch, go here or you can find it in the App Store on your device.

Note: I was compensated by Collective Bias – a Similac partner – for my time to review the Similac Baby Journal App. All opinions are my own.

Affresh Review & Giveaway

What room do you spend the most time cleaning? For us it’s definitely the kitchen, and I’d wager a guess that it’s the same way for a lot of families. We spend a lot of time in our kitchens, and cooking can get messy – and since having kids, we run the dishwasher several times a week (as opposed to ONCE every week and a half when we were first married).

Have you ever experienced your dishwasher getting dirty? I’ve noticed it every once in a while, and let me tell you – taking the effort to wash my dishwasher felt pretty ironic. Well, I recently got the chance to review some products from Affresh that make cleaning the dishwasher, disposal, and washing machine a nearly effortless task. I knew when it had arrived because our mailbox smelled fresh!

I love the washing machine cleaner! I just placed the power puck in my HE washing machine, turned it on a normal cycle with hot water, and was good to go. I had actually noticed recently that our clothes didn’t seem quite as vibrantly fresh as they used to, and wondered how to clean the machine. Affresh really made an instant, noticeable difference both in the washer and in restoring the freshness of our laundry. The grit grabber sheets are great to clean the rubber seal that’s around the door of the washing machine.

The dishwasher and disposal cleaner uses oxygenated bubbles (activated by water) to circulate and remove odor. I could see and smell a difference in our dishwasher after using it, but the cleaner also reaches hoses that I couldn’t reach myself to clean. It took just a few seconds of my time to clean both the dishwasher and disposal, and I love the fresh smell it gave our kitchen.

Win It

If you’re like me and love easy cleaning, then you’ll be excited about this giveaway! THREE readers will win an Affresh prize pack. This contest is open to U.S. and Canadian readers. Entries will be accepted until midnight CST on Friday, March 4.

How To Enter

I love this, because I can’t wait to see what you have to share. To enter, simply comment here answering this question:

What is your favorite household cleaning tip? The more creative the better! I’d especially like to hear your favorite ideas for cleaning the kitchen.


Baby Bullet Winner!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered! There were a ton of entries, including the adorable photos people entered (you can view them over on the Frugal Novice Facebook page). I’m really excited about all the participation we had with the photos and am planning on hosting a giveaway very soon that centers around photo entries, so keep your eye out!

The winning comment was for sharing the contest on her Facebook wall, but the winner did enter a photo of her little girl – isn’t she cute?

The winner is…

Congratulations Abby! I hope you and your daughter enjoy the Baby Bullet and all the food you make with it!

Home Printers

How many of you have a printer in your home? I’d guess that almost all of us with computers have a printer too. Brian and I actually recently bought a new one, because we wanted an all-in-one unit with scanning and copying functions too. We looked at HP and several other brands too until we found the printer that worked best for us. We wanted one that was quick, had good speed, and didn’t use up printer ink too quickly.

I print a lot from home, especially now that I’ve discovered online coupons. I’ve printed photos of the boys, birthday cards, mailing labels, and more. We have an inkjet printer, but one day I’d love to get a laserjet. Its amazing to me the quality of home printers lately – I can still remember the old printer my family had back in the 1980’s – they’ve come a long way!

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Wordless Wednesday – Valentine’s Edition

Recently I was talking with J about unconditional love – that Brian and I will always love him & C no matter what. He paused for a moment, and then said: “And I will ALWAYS love trains.”

Menu Plan Monday – Valentine’s Week!

Menu Plan Monday

There’s nothing to make you feel romantic for Valentine’s Day like coming down with the flu. It’s Sunday night and I’m sitting here feeling miserable but completely unable to fall asleep, so I figured I’d work on my Menu Plan Monday post. See how committed I am to you all? :)

So, today – we went to church and I started feeling tired, but figured it was just from having a busy week and a late night last night. As the day wore on, I just started feeling worse and worse, but figured I just had a cold… until the leg aching started and it sunk in that this is probably the flu. Brian has been absolutely wonderful and took over dinner, laundry, bedtime with the boys, and grocery shopping. I love that man!

On to this week’s meal plan… it’s a little up in the air for Monday, but here’s what we have planned:

Monday: The boys are going to have a Valentine’s Day picnic in the living room, complete with heart-shaped PB&J and Cheetos (their favorite chips that they very rarely get) and Oreo’s. Fine dining toddler/preschooler style. Once they go to bed we had planned to cook chicken with risotto & then chocolate mousse for dessert. We’ll see if that ends up happening (if it does, Brian will have to do the cooking) or if we have to save it for another night.

Tuesday: Pizza! I am reviewing this pizza book this week, and we’re going to try a new homemade crust and a spinach pesto recipe. We’ll make a cheese pizza for the boys just in case, but this new recipe sounds really good! Check back Wednesday for the recipes we use.

Wednesday: Chicken fajitas (grilled on our indoor grill/panini press) with tortilla chips & homemade salsa.

Thursday: Baked ziti & green beans. I am sure that our way of making it is not at all legitimately baked ziti, but we like it a lot and it’s a quick dinner. I cook the meat in a skillet, adding minced garlic, Italian seasoning and some red pepper flakes. I drain the meat and add the sauce, letting it simmer on low while the pasta cooks to box directions. Then I drain the pasta and mix it with the sauce, pour it in a casserole dish, top it with mozzarella & parmesan, and bake until the cheese is melted.

Friday: Leftovers of either fajitas or baked ziti.

Saturday: Eat out! We’re not going out on Tuesday like we normally do, so we’ll probably go to Jason’s Deli.

Hope you all have a great week and stay healthy!


Image Editing Software

Both at my job and in blogging, graphic design is a large part of what I do (and love).  Multimedia Software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator is priceless –  with Photoshop especially, knowing how to use it allows me to do so much custom work – for work, for freelance, and for blogging.

Many people, no matter what their profession, are looking for a Digital Picture Editor or an image editing program of some kind. I can honestly say Photoshop is my most-used (and most-valued) software each day.

In fact, I’m using Photoshop right now to update my blog’s look and am really excited about it! Using this program allows me to make things look their best, which makes me look my best.

Disclosure: http://cmp.ly/3