Goulash

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Look at this adorable card she made for Jeremiah’s birthday. He LOVES Minions and Stuart is his favorite.

My mother-in-law is super creative. She quilts and scrapbooks. Never a holiday goes by that we don’t receive a handmade card. So, I knew Lynn could take an item I found at a craft show and help me replicate it for our wedding favor.

Starbucks

We did our first look just outside the Starbucks in the Kansas City Overland Park Marriott. It was the venue of our wedding. Photo by: Joseph Sands Photography

Jeremiah and I went on our second date to Starbucks. It was after dinner at Bonefish Grill. We often debate if our first kiss was in the parking lot of the restaurant or at Starbucks. But we know we sat on the patio and talked for hours. Since we both love coffee, we go to Starbucks a lot for dates, meetings, or working on projects. Sometimes, it’s even motivation to workout. We also had three Keurig makers at one time. On any given day, we probably have between 100-150 K-cups in our apartment. What can I say, we like variety? That said, we do have our favorite flavors of coffee.Starbucks2

Lynn examined the sample I gave her and listened for my vision of having “Love is Brewing” and “Mr. & Mrs.” on each of our favorite kinds of coffee. Lynn searched the internet for a template and a video tutorial. Then, she made a template. Her scrapbooking friends even sent her some tools to add a little extra to the design. The next step was trips to Jo-Ann’s and Michaels. (Lynn is also price conscious so she helped me find some coupons to save us some money on the purple paper.) She scored all the paper so all we had to do was assemble them. It sounds simple but we spent almost an entire day making 60 of these K-cups. My sister and her friend Susan also joined us late in the day to finish the project.

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The “Mr.” was Donut Shop Regular. The “Mrs.” was Gloria Jean’s Hazelnut. We also made some without coffee for people like my mom who have a Keurig but don’t drink coffee.

 

This adorable little piece cost us about $1 each to make.

Today’s recipe comes from Lynn. Both our mothers forgot to bring recipe cards to the wedding but we knew what recipes we wanted them to share. Jeremiah was like, “I love my mom’s goulash.” I was like “I hate goulash.” He was like, “You have to try my mom’s recipe, it’s soooo good.” When I think of goulash, I think macaroni noodles with barely any meat and tomato sauce scooped with an ice cream scoop onto a lunch tray. Thank you, school lunch ladies, for making it so bland and gross looking. But I have to admit, Lynn’s recipe is really good. It has cheese. That’s what was missing in the version I had eaten in elementary school.

We don’t know for sure if the recipe is from his Oma (Grandma Martin) but we are guessing that his Oma probably made some sort of goulash as Lynn was growing up. Lynn’s parents meet in Germany as her father was stationed there in the military. In fact, I think Lynn didn’t move to the states until she was six years old. Goulash is typically a Hungarian dish but there are German versions too.

I’m really proud of Jeremiah because he made this dish all by himself. I was running late getting home from work so he started cooking without me. Normally we tag team cooking. I will tell you though to pay attention to the words “cooked macaroni”. Jeremiah didn’t know pasta doubles in size. So, needless to say, we then had some extra noodles cooked for another dish. He thought it was a little cheesier than his mom makes it but I thought it was just perfect.

Hamburger Goulash by Lynn Slater
IMG_01071 lb. ground beef
½ c. chopped onions
½ tsp. salt
3 c. cooked elbow macaroni
1 can (16 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 T. chili powder
½ tsp. pepper
2 c. Velveeta cheese cubed

Brown beef and chopped onion. Add spices and tomatoes. Add cooked macaroni and cheese. Cook until cheese melts.

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Bananas for Dinner?

Wednesday was hump day in the SNAP Challenge. Each day seems to get a little easier when it comes to thinking about food. However, the side effects of lack of food are starting to set in. Jeremiah and I don’t feel as focus at work as we should be. While folding laundry, we noticed I put a number of articles in the dryer I normal wouldn’t have. Clearly, I was so focused on my hunger on Monday that I wasn’t paying attention. We are also so tired in the evenings.

SandwichFor breakfast, we each ate our pancakes. They seems to hold until 11 – 11:30 AM. For lunch, I sprinkled a little Italian Seasoning in both our hummus containers. Jeremiah is begging to add oil to his dish for Thursday.

For lunch, I continued to eat a tuna sandwich. We had enough leftovers so Jeremiah took a serving of red beans and rice to go with his sides.

photo 8_compressedDuring the day, I got to go to an open house in the SNAP Department. They had samples of recipes others can make on a SNAP budget during next week’s challenge. Since I am doing the SNAP Challenge this week, I couldn’t sample any of them. They aren’t in my SNAP budget. They also asked clients to share their stories. The stories are documented and displayed on paper plates. I was touched by so many of them. Pregnancy, a workplace injury, cancer, and minimum wage jobs are just a few of the reasons these people are turning to Harvesters for help. I feel guilty that at the end of this week I know my budget will increase for food.

When I come home, Jeremiah is eating some crackers. I asked if the lunch had held. He said it did until he got to my house. I understand the cravings you typically get while cooking dinner. Normally, I would eat a few crackers or M&Ms myself. While eating Chicken Penne Pasta with Salsa con Queso and corn bread leftovers, Jeremiah’s eye catches the bananas hanging on the counter. He say, “I will skip a banana for lunch if you want to split on tonight.” He immediately realizes how hungry he is and that he has never done this before. I tell Jeremiah about a banana, brown sugar, and butter recipe I saw in the SNAP cookbook that I want to try. I show him a picture on my cell phone and realize it takes two bananas. Sure, we could half the recipe but what if it is terrible? Then, we just wasted a banana and extra ingredients not originally in our budget. I convenience Jeremiah to wait until after our Financial Peace University class. If we are still hungry, we can eat it then. With eight cookies left, I tell Jeremiah we have enough for two each tonight. What a splurge!

While driving to class, we discuss the foods we are craving. I told Jeremiah that I wanted a hot chocolate. Jeremiah mentions just how much he is craving his grande Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks. He also wants French fries. Now suddenly, I am craving these from the McDonald’s across the street from my apartment. Jeremiah says, “They are on the dollar menu.” That’s when I have to remind him that McDonald’s doesn’t take SNAP so we can get any before Saturday.

When we get to class, two of the groups had brought snacks. There is hummus from the Holy Land Cafe that looks so much better than ours with fresh veggie and crackers. Someone else has brought cookies. We skip the table to sip on the water bottles we bought because it isn’t in our SNAP budget. Throughout class, their is discussion about the food for our last class next week. Our mouths are watering at the pork loin description.

The class this week is on home buying. This is something we would both like to have in the future. In some of the examples Dave shares, they save all of one spouses income to buy a home with cash. That’s funny because Jeremiah and I have talked about just living off his income and saving mine. We are dreaming of the days in retirement where we can travel and not have to worry about money to pay off debt. We think this is doable. Even in doing so, we know we won’t have to live on a SNAP budget for food.

I also share with Jeremiah that I think we are spending too much money eating out. We agree that one week we can do a nice sit down and one week we can do fast casual (Chipotle, Smashburger, pizza, etc.) Jeremiah also throws out that if one of us suggest going out to eat more than once a week, they have to put $45 into a saving jar. Sadly, this is the average cost of us going out to eat one meal. But this week, it’s all the money we have for 30 meals. We haven’t determined yet what we are going to do with the money.

While driving home, I comment on how I haven’t been enjoying the pasta dish as much as I usually do. I think it taste weird. Jeremiah says he is thinking the same thing. I asked it the salsa con queso was expired and Jeremiah says no. He ask it is the pasta. I said that it is the pasta I normally use. But then I realized, we had regular pasta on Sunday night and barely any sugar since. I bet whole wheat pasta is more noticeable then.

We retreat to my apartment. It’s only 9:15 PM and we are so tired so it’s time for bed.

The Gift of Bacon

After work on Saturday, I went to Jeremiah’s house. We finalized our meal plan for the week. I’m happy to report, we came in under budget. Enough so, we can have Papa Murphy’s pizza on Friday night. You have no idea how excited this made us. Papa Murphy’s sells a take ‘n bake FAV pizza (a large cheese, pepperoni, or sausage) for just $5 every day. And since the pizza isn’t baked, it’s eligible for SNAP benefits. (Thank you to my co-workers for this little tip.) I checked their website and it says that you can use SNAP at almost every location. Score!

breadThe last couple ingredients we needed for our menu were sausage, chickpeas, and bread. You should have seen us. Since we came in so far under budget, we opted to buy two sausages at the HyVee meat counter ($1.25 each = $2.50). The chickpeas were included in the beans sales so we got them for $.66 a can. (Yes, I had budgeted $1.50). We decided to splurge and buy a box of Jiffy corn bread. It was $.55 and the HyVee brand was $.50. Jeremiah wanted Jiffy. I didn’t realize it but we now had to budget in another $.17 for an egg and $.08 for milk to make the mix. The bread was a real challenge. The $1.50 wheat bread wasn’t on sale at HyVee. We looked around and compared bread. We ended up with a HyVee loaf of $.99 white bread. All the other breads either didn’t have enough slices, were less health, or significantly more expensive.

When we got to the checkout, the cashier made a joke about how our evening was based on the ingredients, I said “we were trying to live on a SNAP budget.” She said, “every penny counts.” I gave her my Fuel Saver card and used my debit card on the machine. I think she thought I was paying with SNAP because she said, “it went through”. I was really offended when we got to the car. Jeremiah asked, “why?” I said, “I used my debit card. I just got paid yesterday so of course it went through, I have a whole paycheck in my account. I think that cashier thought I was using a Vision card (how SNAP recipients purchase their food). ” I felt for all the SNAP recipients whole have ever been made to feel that way when they purchased their food.

After buying our groceries, we went to dinner. We both decided to get an adult beverage since we wouldn’t be able to have one for the next week. I’m not sure if I would have had I known I wouldn’t be able to do so this week.

Saturday night, Jeremiah mentioned that his parents had left us the gift of bacon. He thought we could have it with pancakes during the SNAP Challenge. I had to share with him the bad news, that we couldn’t do that because we can’t accept free food during the SNAP Challenge. The reason is because not everyone receiving SNAP benefits is lucky enough to have people who leave bacon in their fridge. I suggested we have it for breakfast on Sunday morning. I’m glad I did because it was the really good bacon – Farmland full fat, thick cut.

I asked Jeremiah if we were making less healthy food decisions knowing that we were going into a week of such a restrictive diet. He agreed we probably were. On Sunday, we started our day with two eggs, two & half slices of bacon, and a donut. After church, I weren’t feeling hungry yet so we stopped by my house to pick-up some of the items we needed to prepare our food for the week. By the time we made it back up north, it was 1:30PM. We stopped by Chipotle for lunch. Jeremiah debated not eating the whole bowl. I reminded him, he wouldn’t be able to eat it this week so he finished it.

We spent three and half hours cooking recipes for the week. I made a point to portion everything out to ensure we had enough and didn’t run out. It was a good thing we did because we needed to make another batch of hummus. I was so excited that our cookie recipe made 12 extra cookies. I started discussing how we could eat them based on what we were having for dinner. Jeremiah said to me, “Are you rationing out cookies?” Indeed, I was.

cheesecakeWhile Jeremiah was cooking our dinner, I ran to HyVee in pursuit of our last Starbucks. (We are both Gold Members so this is going to be hard. Especially for me, since I’m giving up coffee entirely this week. I need creamers/syrup to drink it & that isn’t in the budget. Plus, it allows Jeremiah to have one in the morning and one at night.) The Starbucks’ app said that location was open until 9PM. Unfortunately, they were closed when I arrived at 8:05PM. I called Jeremiah and asked for the next closest location. He sent me to a free standing one we had been to together before. After dinner, we finished off the cherry chocolate cheesecake Jeremiah had baked for Valentine’s Day with our grande lattes.

We are ready for the Harvesters SNAP Challenge to start on Monday!

Please note: We are doing the Harvesters’ SNAP Challenge a week early because I will be out of town at a training next week. That means their is still time for you to sign up & participate. To learn more, click here

Fall Changes

I know it’s been a few weeks since I wrote a blog post. Although the temperatures may be hovering around three digit heat, everything is changing as we approach fall. I dog sat for the first time in my life and just started a new job. After a quick afternoon nap, I’m back in the kitchen cooking up new recipes to share with you.

Today’s post is inspired by Starbucks. Last week, the fall specialty drinks reappeared on the menu. My personal favorite is Salted Caramel Mocha but I also love Pumpkin Spice Latte. For those of you who love the winter holiday drinks, today’s copy cat recipe is for you. Although this isn’t one of my usuals, it is one of my sister’s favorites. I think it taste pretty close to the Starbucks drink.

Caramel Brulee LatteCaramel Brulee Latte from Pinterest
2 T. caramel sauce
1-2 oz. vanilla syrup
4 oz. espresso
8-10 oz. steamed milk
whipped cream
toffee bits and caramel sauce

Place caramel sauce in cup. Add vanilla syrup. Top with coffee and milk. Garnish with whipped cream and toffee bits.

Notes:

  • I used half a shot glass of sugar free French vanilla syrup (1 oz.)
  • I don’t have an espresso maker so I made the Starbuck Blonde K-cup with 6 oz. of water.
  • I used 10 oz. of steamed skim milk.
  • I make froth from skim milk and skipped the whipped cream, toffee bits, and extra caramel sauce.