Thursday, May 8, 2014

dinner for mom!

 i am the queen of making fancy meals for around 5 bucks a head. less because i dont have to buy spices etc every single time i cook or whatever. i wrote out my methodology for a friend, but i thought, with mother's day right around the corner and money being tight for a lot of people, i would share it a bit more publicly for those who want to celebrate with a nice dinner but your wallet's a little thin right now.

the prices are estimates, of course, because prices vary across different states. but in general all of these items are very cheap and you may even have some already in your kitchen. i included two different options, one which involves making your own (very basic) spaghetti sauce and one using jarred sauce. i do most of my shopping at walmart, but some of these things if not all of them can also be gotten from the dollar tree, dollar general, or a grocery store---but the grocery store will be a bit more expensive. either way both options should cost you less than $15 to make.

option 1:

  • 1 lb box of spaghetti/angel hair/whatever - $0.98
  • 1 large can of tomato sauce - $0.88
  • 1 large can of ttomato puree - $0.88
  • 1 small can of tomato paste - $0.88
  • 1 lb of chop/ground beef/meat - $3.00-$4.00
  • 1 loaf of italian or french bread - $1.88
  • 1 canister of grated parmesan cheese - $2.48
  • butter/margarine/butter substitute - $1.98
  • some spices if you don't have any already - $.50-$2.00

spaghetti sauce
  • mix the tomato products in a pot
  • add spices (oregano, garlic, onion, italian seasoning, basil, pepper, whatever you like)
  • simmer on low heat for as many hours as possible. add a tablespoon of baking soda to cut the acid if desired.
  • brown the meat in little chopped up bits and put the same spices you used for the sauce in the pan (make sure there's no red visible anymore)
  • dump the browned spiced meat AND the liquid drippings into the sauce pot. (trust me. the drippings are where all the flavor comes from.) 
  • continue simmering the sauce. it should be on the stove for at least 3-4 hours before you serve it to really get the most taste.
garlic bread
  • mix up some melted butter, grated parmesan, and garlic powder or garlic salt in a small cup or bowl
  • cut the italian bread into 1-inch-thick slices, without cutting all the way through to the bottom of the loaf.
  • spread the butter mixture between every slice, wrap the whole thing in tin foil 
  • stick it in the oven at 250-300* depending on your oven for about a half hour to an hour, checking it regularly to make sure it doesnt burn. 
  • once the inside is a nice light brown (the slices will be slightly crispy but softer in the middle) it's ready to go.

spaghetti/angel hair/linguine/whatever
  • boil some water in a pot and put a capful of extra virgin olive oil in the water if desired
  • cook the spaghetti. (that was super easy, right?)

option 2:

  • 1 lb box of spaghetti/angel hair/whatever - $0.98
  • 1 jar of premade spaghetti sauce (i prefer the "meat flavored" prego) - $1.88
  • 1 loaf of italian or french bread - $1.88
  • 1 canister of grated parmesan cheese - $2.48
  • butter/margarine/butter substitute - $1.98
  • garlic powder or garlic salt - $0.98

follow the directions from option 1, skipping the make-your-own-sauce bit.

light some candles, turn on some easy listening music and voila, you have a super fancy dinner for less than 15 bucks! :)

and yes, in case anyone was wondering, i am terrific while watching the price is right. if i ever got on that show i would win ALL the things because i know exactly how much pretty much anything costs.

my girlfriend calls me and asks "how much does this thing cost" and i can tell her right away. once we were at pier one and she was buying xmas presents for all her co-workers and non-family obligations (about 20 people total.)

she looked in the basket when she was done and said "how much money do you think i spent?" and i hadn't even been with her when she picked out half the things--i was off wandering on my own--so i didnt even see any of the prices. but i looked over her basket of presents, gift bags, wrapping paper, gift tags, cards, ribbons, etc for all 20 people, and i said "around $215 bucks." she paled and said there was no way. i just shrugged. we got up to the register, they ran her up.. total including tax? $211.78.

she just looked at me. and now its like a party trick.

and hey, that was a lot of money but broken down she only spent about 10 bucks a person and included the gifts themselves, the wrapping, cards, etc. not too shabby.

any way, i hope you all enjoy the upcoming holidays and i hope somebody out there benefits from this post.

until next time, dear minions. :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Book Recommedations

this entry will be dynamic as i come across or remember new books i want to add. i will update this list as necessary, adding other categories and more books. this list is by no means complete at all--these are only books that i have personally read or had enough exposure to, to know they dont suck. :)

it only contains categories i am interested in, and some of these books span more than one category but are only listed once. i might eventually add reviews and links for them, but i'm not sure. anyway, i hope this list helps someone find new books to love!

  • the hunger games (the hunger games #1) by suzanne collins
  • catching fire (the hunger games #2) by suzanne collins
  • mockingjay (the hunger games #3) by suzanne collins
  • divergent (divergent #1) by veronica roth
  • insurgent (divergent #2) by veronica roth
  • allegiant (divergent #3) by veronica roth
  • uglies (uglies #1) by scott westerfeld
  • pretties (uglies #2) by scott westerfeld
  • specials (uglies #3) by scott westerfeld
  • extras (uglies #4) by scott westerfeld
  • on the beach by nevil shute
  • biting the sun by tanith lee

  • the best little girl in the world by steven levenkron
  • the luckiest girl in the world by steven levenkron
  • wasted by marya hornbacher 
  • prozac nation by elizabeth wurtzel
  • girl, interrupted by suzanna kaysen
  • it's kind of a funny story by ned vizzini
  • the virgin suicides by jeffrey eugenides
  • looking for alaska by john green
  • bad girls by alex mcaulay
  • such a pretty girl by laura wiess
  • can't get there from here by todd strasser 
  • the silver linings playbook by matthew quick
  • broken china by lori aurelia williams
  • alt ed by catherin atkins
  • you remind me of you by eireann corrigan
  • icy sparks by gwyn hyman rubio
  • house rules by jodi picoult
  • prep by curtis sittenfeld
  • veronica decides to die by paulo coelho
  • look me in the eye by john elder robison
  • violet & claire by francesca lia block
  • the hanged man by francesca lia block

  • the fault in our stars by john green (cancer, amputation)
  • side effects by amy goldman koss (cancer)
  • my sister's keeper by jodi picoult (cancer)
  • handle with care by jodi picoult (osteogenesis imperfecta)
  • the doll hospital by james duffy (unknown serious illness)

(gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans*, queer/questioning, asexual, poly, et al)
  • girl walking backwards by bett williams
  • dive by stacey donovan
  • keeping you a secret by julie anne peters
  • empress of the world by sara ryan
  • annie on my mind by nancy garden
  • grl2grl by julie anne peters
  • am i blue by various (anthology including francesca lia block & bruce coville)
  • i was a teenage fairy by francesca lia block

  • wait til helen comes by mary downing hahn
  • the doll in the garden by mary downing hahn
  • the "fear street" series by r.l. stine
  • the midnighters series by scott westerfeld
  • the last days by scott westerfel
  • peeps by scott westerfeld
  • leviathan (leviathan #1) by scott westerfeld
  • behemoth (leviathan #2) by scott westerfeld
  • goliath (leviathan #3) by scott westerfeld

  • watership down by richard adams
  • siddhartha by herman hesse
  • dangerous angels by francesca lia block
  • the secret garden by frances hodgson burnett
  • a little princess by frances hodgson burnett
  • so yesterday by scott westerfeld