Hobby Hustler

The journey of rediscovering myself since February 2012 has been a long one, and a part of that was discovering and rediscovering the things that I truly love and enjoy. Over time I have picked up and dropped hobbies, but the three main things that I list when people ask me what I do for fun are knitting, yoga, and baking, and as with any hobby, once you get really into it, it can start eating away at your wallet.

Knitting 

At anywhere from $3-$15/skein plus needles, knitting (and crocheting) isn’t the most expensive hobby in the world, but it can certainly get expensive fast, especially if you’re working on a huge project. But for me, I really just make things at random for people, or find patterns I like and then gift them after I’m finished and don’t know what to do with it (or I make things for people who are having babies – like the blanket below!). If you don’t mind, you can also sell the things you make (I’ve sold hats before) or offer to make something in exchange for them purchasing the supplies. For me, because what I made actually didn’t matter as much as the process of doing it, I started looking around for charities. Spoiler: there aren’t a lot of places looking for knit goods in Louisiana. Enter bf’s mom. Her church sponsors an organization that knits afghans and shawls for charity…and the best part? People are constantly donating yarn, so I can go, pick out a few skeins, and then give it all back after it’s been knit into something! So without buying $30 worth of yarn, I’m able to create something that will actually mean something to someone else.

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Yoga

Yoga is one of those things that everyone wants to try at least once, has read about in Eat, Pray, Love and has been around for a billion years. You can practice with work-out DVDs, Youtube, Netflix, with your friends, on the Wii Fit, or, as I prefer, at a yoga studio. But at $17/class, it gets really expensive really quickly. So I did their entry 10 classes for $20 in 30 days and was hooked. Unfortunately, there was no way I could sustainably afford the prices after that, so I started using my Wii Fit and eventually tapered off. Then as I was browsing Facebook, I saw that the studio was advertising what they call an “Energy Exchange,” which are apparently common. You work for the studio in exchange for practicing there, an hour of work for an hour of yoga. I immediately emailed them and interviewed about a week ago and got it! I had my first day yesterday and it was fantastic! The energy in that place is so positive and embracing, but also the work is very straightforward and it flew by. So instead of wishing I could spend $1200/year to practice, I can be scheduled to work the studio and then take classes whenever they fit my schedule. This can apply to a yoga studio near you, or even a gym…just seeing if your favorite place to hang out or exercise or even just be will let you work in exchange for services. It saves them the money of paying someone and you get to practice something you truly enjoy!

kitteh-yogaBaking

This one is trickier. I have found that it takes a large-scale initial investment and then the rest is just replenishing as you go along. But if you don’t have several  hundred dollars to drop on baking supplies, the really simple solution is to bake with friends. You would be surprised at what baking pans people have pilfered off of their families and what they have lying around the house. Plus what, you’re going to eat three dozen cookies by yourself? Puh-lease I do that. And to build up your collection of pans and cookie cutters (why yes, I do have pans shaped like a jack-o-lantern and a heart), you can wait until after the holidays because they go on sale like crazy. They’re also great things to ask for as Christmas presents. Then there are those people who love baked goods but do not have the ability to touch the kitchen without setting the house on fire, so you can always offer to hang out and cook for them in exchange for them providing the baking or cooking supplies.

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Good luck in your endeavors to find a way to do what you love without breaking the bank!

Savory Sunday 6.3

“All of the world is a birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much.” – George Harrison

Prepare yourself. This will be the most delicious and cavity-inducing thing in the world…

And it takes about a million years to make. It’s a great first endeavor into a more complicated recipe, especially if you’ve never worked with yeast before. I mean…it’s one way to…make your dough rise (get it? dough? money? rising? more? hardy harr harr!).

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Roll Ingredients:
1 quart of whole milk
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of sugar
2 packages of active yeast
8 cups of all-purpose flour + 1 cup flour
1 heaping tsp of baking powder
1 scant tsp of baking soda
1 heaping tbs of salt
1.5-2 cups flour (Plus flour to spread out on the table)
1 cup of sugar
ground cinnamon
7-8 pie tins

Icing Ingredients: 
1 bag of confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp maple flavoring
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup of melted butter
1/4 cup of brewed coffee
1/8 tsp of salt

Directions for cinnamon rolls:
1. Mix 1 quart of whole milk, 1 cup of vegetable oil, and one cup of sugar in a pan. “scald” the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool for 45 min.-1 hour.

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2. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm (NOT HOT), sprinkle in 2 packets of active dry yeast. Let sit for a minute and then add 8 cups of all purpose flour.
3. Stir the mixture together. Cover and let sit for at least an hour. After an hour the dough will have risen. Add 1 cup of flour.
4. Add 1 heaping tsp of baking powder, 1 scant tsp of baking soda, and 1 heaping tbs of salt. Stir the mixture together (adding more flour may make the next step easier).

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5. Sprinkle surface (a counter, preferably) generously with flour. Also, preheat the oven to 400C.
6. Form half of the dough into a rough rectangle, then roll it thin, trying to maintain a general rectangular shape. Increase both its length and width as you roll.
7. Drizzle on the 1.5-2 cups of butter over the dough, and sprinkle over it with 1 cup of sugar. Now generously cover it with cinnamon (remember, they’re “cinnamon” rolls!).
8. Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Some of the butter/sugar/cinnamon mixture is going to ooze out the end, but it will be okay. be careful because this gets messy! Pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.
9. Take the roll and cut them into pieces 3/4″-1″ thick. Put around seven per pie tin.

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10. Repeat for other half of the dough.
11. Let the rolls sit for 20-30 minutes to rise, and then bake them at 400 degrees until light golden brown. This takes about 15-18 minutes. Our stove, which has an electric oven, baked them in about 16 minutes.
12. Take them out.

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Directions for Icing:
1. In a large mixing bowl, add 1 bag of powdered sugar. Then add 2 tsp of maple flavoring, 1/2 cup of milk, 1/4 cup of melted butter, 1/4 cup of brewed coffee, and the salt.
2. Mix well. It will be thick and pourable. Pour over the cooked cinnamon rolls and enjoy!!!

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Makes about 4 dozen cinnamon rolls.

I hope you enjoy! And feel free to give suggestions of what I should try! 

Savory Sunday 6.2

“I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and say to myself ‘Well, that’s not going to happen.'” – Rita Rudner

I am a terrible person.

And by that I mean it’s actually Monday. And I made gumbo but didn’t take any pictures…but it was really delicious? So I’ll just have to make it again. Until then…how about the wonders of pepper jelly? Never heard of it? Probably not surprising; I think it might be more of a regional thing. It’s really fantastic to eat on crackers, but ESPECIALLY if you pour it over cream cheese and eat THAT with crackers. The resulting deliciousness might make you keel over and die. Figuratively. Literally. Also jelly was something I never thought I would be capable of making…but then I did it!

Pepper Jelly

Ingredients: 
1/2 chopped green bell pepper
1/2 chopped red bell pepper
1/4 c. chopped fresh jalapeno pepper (approximately 1 small pepper and 1 large pepper)
1.5 c. apple cider vinegar (which can later be repurposed for mosquito bites a la my Nana)
6 c. sugar
4 oz. pectin (aka Certo)
6 – 1/2 pt. canning jars with lids. I just used one big jar and refrigerated it. If you plan on storing these or handing them out as gifts, you’ll need to use sterilized canning jars.

Steps to Deliciousness:
1. Finely mince bell pepper and hot pepper. I watched a wikihow on how to mince things. I have a chopper, but I didn’t want to use it. Apparently you just cut the top off, cut it in half, scrape out the inside (unless you want the spice), and slice it into strips. After that, turn the strips perpendicular to yourself and chop them into tiny pieces. Voilà!!!

chopped peppers

2. Combine pepper, vinegar, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. MAKE sure the sugar is dissolved, or it won’t set right.

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3. Remove from heat and add Certo. The packages are 3 oz., and it calls for 4 oz., so you’ll need to premeasure or eyeball it (not a good idea when canning).

mix

4. Pour into jars. Be careful not to spill the hot liquid on yourself. It will HURT! Leave it alone and let it set. This can vary. I read that it can take anywhere from an hour to a day. You can tell by consistency. It may not set, in which case something might be a little off texture-wise. I didn’t have a problem with that.

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Makes a bunch of little jars or one big jar of pepper jelly

I hope you enjoy! And feel free to give suggestions of what I should try! 

Savory Sunday 6.1

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

My mom and I were cooking up a storm a few days ago (fried fish, shrimp, boiled crawfish, barbecued, etc.), and we decided to try a quick and healthy version of the classic meat pie. It’s a slightly altered version of a recipe she tried somewhere else. It actually turned out really well.

Quick & Easy Meat Pies

Ingredients: 
1 lb ground breakfast sausage
1 green bell pepper
2-3 stalks green onion
1 small white onion
1 tbs minced garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 boxes pre-made pie crusts (contains 2 crusts per box – the kind you roll out)

Steps to Deliciousness:
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Brown the sausage on the stovetop. While you’re doing this, chop the onion and bell pepper.

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2. Once you’ve finished browning the sausage, remove it from the pan and use the oil to saute the onions, garlic, and bell pepper. Once this is sauteed, add the meat back and add seasoning.
3. Roll out the pie crusts and use a bowl to cut circles into the crust. Place the seasoned, browned meat into the circle and use a fork to close them. Lay them out on a cookie sheet covered in foil. You don’t need to grease the sheet.

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4. Bake the meat pies for 15 minutes (or until brown). Then eat!

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Makes about 15 meat pies – depends on the size of the bowl you use to make them.

I hope you enjoy! And feel free to give suggestions of what I should try! 

Savory Sunday 5.4

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”― Charles M. Schulz

Sorry. Savory Sunday was the cleverest title I could think of – at least I didn’t spell it Sundae? I was really hoping a fantastic pun would emerge, but alas no such luck. So Savory Sundays, what’s that? Well, I absolutely love to cook and bake and used to write another blog about my cooking/baking adventures. The goal was to try a new recipe every Sunday and then blog it with pictures. I got through about 18 before I ended up leaving the country and the person I was cooking with for a few months.

I have been spending most Sunday nights at bf’s house with his family and a lot of times I end up baking some sort of dessert or helping his mom cook (they do this really great family dinner night every Sunday), so instead of restarting the other blog (that hasn’t had a post since 2011), I thought maybe it would be more fun to just add it as a weekly installment to Budget or Fudget. I can’t promise all of the recipes will be frugal, but I’ll try! I’ve learned that for me, baking doesn’t end up being incredibly expensive when I want to try a recipe, but only because I bake so much that I’ve already made most of the purchases (e.g. flour, vanilla, eggs, baking soda, etc.) recipes upon recipes ago. Here’s one I tried a while ago and really liked!

S’more Cookies

Ingredients: 
1.5 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about one of those enclosed packs out of the box)
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 dash of cinnamon
2 softened sticks of butter
3/4 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups miniature chocolate chips (about a bag)
1.5 cups of mini-marshmallows (about half a bag)
2 chopped Hershey bars (I used 2.5 bars)

Steps to Deliciousness:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, salt, and a dash of cinnamon. In a second, bigger bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until creamy.

2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until smooth, then stir in the chocolate chips (it will seem like a lot – you can add less if you wish).

3. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet – during baking they didn’t stick; however, they did seem to flatten a lot, so be sure to space them well.
4. Bake for 8 minutes (on the top rack) and remove from the oven. Push 3-4 marshmallows and a few pieces of Hershey bar into each of the cookies. Return to the oven and bake an additional 3-4 minutes (I chose 2 minutes) or until fully cooked.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

I hope you enjoy! And feel free to give suggestions of what I should try! 

Cooking for One [2,3,…]

Many times, cooking for many is a great thing. You make more, the ingredients are cheaper (or you use all of them before they go bad), and you’ll probably have leftovers. You get great company, and then you can hang out and enjoy yourselves like you’re on a fast track to a laugh track.

If I'm lucky, I get to be Kramer.

So…I think this assumes that you and those you hang out with eat the same thing. No. That never happens. Ever. (okay sometimes, if you’re lucky) So here’s the rundown with my roommates/bf:

  • bf – Does not eat vegetables, Indian food, Greek food, onions, and doesn’t care for steak (& other red meat)
  • roommate #1 – eats everything in the world. twice.
  • roommate #2 – eats lunchables and Greek food
  • roommate #3 – won’t eat it unless it says organic or fat-free

Because the roommates have meal plans, I primarily stick with bf when it comes to meal planning. This is simple sometimes, like when we go to a restaurant or buy our own meals (Spaghetti-Os & Franks v. New England Clam Chowder), but other times…it’s hard. Especially the no onions/vegetables part. So is eating together even more expensive? Sometimes. But what it means is that over the course of the last four years, we’ve discovered some “No-Fail” couple dinners for picky eaters that are also frugal:

  1. Tacos– Super simple. 1lb of ground beef (or turkey if you’re into that). 1 pack of shells with seasoning. Cheese for him, tomatos/lettuce/onions for her, and Voila! It’s assemble your own to high heaven. Plus, you can totally put the leftovers away and have taco salad for lunch the next day!

    Unrelated, but I can't get over how gross this looks. Thoughts?

  2. Homemade Chicken Soup – made this recipe up yesterday (we’ve both been sick, so it seemed appropriate). I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen him go back for thirds on anything I’ve cooked. Essentially: boiled 2 chicken thighs for an hour in water with garlic and hot sauce. Took ’em out, deboned them. Added the meat and a container of 99% fat free chicken stock to the pot (after pouring out the water) and added fresh water (to kind of keep it from being too chicken-y). Brought to a boil. Added Tony’s, garlic powder, hot sauce, black pepper, salt, and 2 pats of butter. Poured in a ton of those No Yolk noodles (as long as they’re covered by stock/water, it doesn’t matter how many). Boiled it for 12 minutes and done! I cooked a container of onions/veggies separately to add to my bowl. It cost approximately $7 to make, and will last for at least 2 days for both of us ($2 noodles, $3 chicken, $2 chicken stock).
  3. Crack Dip – Okay, this one isn’t so frugal…rehab is getting expensive… 😛 Just kidding. It’s a recipe he found. Apparently it’s “crack dip” because it’s so addictive. It is a little more to make (honestly probably about $15 total), but it’ll last 2-3 days for ~3 people. It’s essentially buffalo chicken dip. I’d suggest going with the last update of the recipe and not even touching any sauce that isn’t buffalo (none of that hot barbecue sauce). Recipe.

    Yummy hands! I mean, dip! It's with crackers here, but I use tortilla chips (better).

  4. Croissant Sandwiches – There’s probably a better name for this, but I don’t know it. You basically take a can of croissants, a pack of lunch meat (preferably chicken – in case you can’t tell, we’re chicken people), and cheese (we like sliced & Swiss). You unwrap the croissants and rewrap them around the lunch meat and cheese, and then throw ’em on a cookie sheet. Bake ’em for the suggested amount of time on the croissants and then you have a bunch of “sandwiches.” They’re really good, but this, of all of them, will make you feel like your life may end soon if you eat too many. Cost: $2 croissants, $2 cheese (will have leftovers), $3 lunchmeat (will have leftovers). Total cost for this: $5 (not including what you have leftover of course!)

If you try any of these, let me know what you think! And feel free to share recipes that don’t require an arm, a leg, and a pound of truffles! This pretty much boils down to that when you spend a lot of time with people, you can gauge what they will and won’t eat, and from that you can come up with frugal, not so frugal, but always delicious recipes that will satiate both of you and answer that age-old question of “so what do you want to eat tonight?”