Across the globe, people eat certain foods on New Year’s Day that are thought to symbolize good luck. Asian countries eat noodles to bring long life. Mediterranean countries believe pomegranate is associated with fertility. Other countries eat fish to help them move forward into the New Year. In the Southern United States, it’s about good luck and prosperity! i.e. black eyed peas and greens.
And since I can certainly benefit from good luck and prosperity in the New Year, I have tracked down a recipe for Hoppin’ John. I can’t guarantee good luck if you eat this on New Year’s Day, but you will at least save a little green by using the slow cooker rather than the stove top. (That’s a step in the right direction for prosperity, right??) And it’s yummy!
What foods does your family eat to usher in the New Year? We’d love to hear about them…especially if they use the slow cooker.
Happy New Year!!
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Got a craving for a holiday snack?
Thanksgiving is over. Now it is time to unpack the holiday decorations, string the lights, and hang the mistletoe! Of course my favorite part of the season isn’t the holiday decorating…it’s the holiday eating. Sweet or salty, crunchy or chewy, I am in! (Unless of course it contains coconut. I do not like coconut.)
But before you jump straight to your old favorites, you should look into no-bake holiday cookie recipes. Now I’m not suggesting skipping out on the family favorite that is only made during the holidays. Some traditions just shouldn’t be messed with. But no-bake holiday cookies might be a good option to mix things up or replace the not so popular recipes you have used in the past (if you happen to be cooking for me think coconut….) And not only do no-bake cookies use less energy, they are frequently less time consuming to make than traditional baked cookies. And if there is anything I know everyone can use more of its time and money (i.e. lower bills)! Especially during the holiday season!
Attached is a simple no bake recipe that I’m going to try.
Do you have a favorite (or new) no-bake recipe that you want to share? We’d love to see it. Even if it has coconut….
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Summer! It’s finally here—and so is a barrage of graduations, first communions, weddings, BBQs and family reunions. If you’re on the hook to host, then you know: after shelling out big time for a bouncy castle, live band, open bar and pony rides, the last thing you’ll need is a huge energy bill the following month. So check out these tips and hopefully the only thing ‘electric’ on your mind will be your killer moves to The Electric Slide.
Rent a Tent
Hot, sunny outdoor spaces might feel nice for a few minutes, but eventually folks will be searching for a place to cool down. Rent a tent from a local company or borrow a few folding canopies from friends and neighbors. You’ll save energy and precious cool indoor air by cutting down on the in-and-out churn of guests through your door. Bonus: hang solar powered lanterns or rope lights for an easy day-to-night transitional space.
Cool Kiddy Pool
For kids and kids at heart, a few strategically located kiddy pools can act as a mini oasis on a hot summer day. Set one designated for splashing—and maybe even a sprinkler or two—in a corner for kids. Set an adult only pool with chairs around it, so your mom’s gaggle of second cousins can roll up their pant legs and soak their toes while they chat.
Break Out the Cooler
Keep beverages in a cooler on ice in a shady spot outdoors. You’ll save major energy by minimizing foot traffic through the house and reducing the number of times you or your guests need to open up the fridge. Bonus: dump cold cooler water over the top of a select guest of honor, creating fond memories for years to come.
Give the Real Goodies
Sending people home with a party favor after your event? Consider treats that save energy or encourage people to go enjoy the great outdoors. Seed Bombs are a beautiful way to encourage everyone to turn off the TV and get outside.
Do you have a trick for saving energy while hosting guests? No matter if the party is large or small, share your ideas in the comments!
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Summer is finally here—and that means it’s time for sun, fun and food with friends! Forget hot ovens and complex recipes. Here are four delicious and quick dishes that will keep the party going without adding a single cent to your energy bill.
Zesty Avocado Salsa
Coarse chop 2 -3 ripe but still firm Hass avocados, 2-3 Roma tomatoes and ½ of a medium red onion. Combine together in a bowl and add 1 tbsp garlic powder, juice of one lime and salt and pepper to taste. Chopped fresh cilantro is a great touch, but optional. Stir gently to combine flavors, serve with tortilla chips or crusty fresh bread and enjoy.
Refreshing Sun Tea
In a large pitcher (preferably one with a lid, but plastic wrap will do) add 3 cups of ice and fill with water. Select 6 – 8 single serving bags of your favorite tea (I prefer Jasmine) submerge them in the water and secure strings firmly to a handle or a straw so you don’t have to go fishing for them later on. Select any favorite herbs you have growing at home—mint, lemon balm, stevia and even basil all add a unique twist—and add a few sprigs to the water. Cover securely and place the pitcher outdoors in direct sunlight for 30 minutes to an hour to brew. Shake gently every few minutes to help mix. To serve, pour over glasses filled with ice and a lemon wedge and enjoy.
Healthy & Delicious Spinach Salad
Slice ripe, sweet in-season pears in ¼ inch thick sections and toss with 3-4 cups of rinsed baby spinach, a handful of crumbled gorgonzola cheese, ¾ cup of dried cranberries and ½ cup of walnuts together in a large serving bowl. When individual plates are being made, drizzle the salad with fresh local honey and a light, tart vinaigrette of your choice.
Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad
Chop 2 – 3 stalks of celery, 3 Roma tomatoes, and ½ medium red onion into small sections and combine in a serving bowl with one can of rinsed garbanzo beans, aka chick peas. Add 2 oz of extra virgin olive oil, 4 oz of unfiltered kosher apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Stir mixture gently to combine flavors. Makes a great crunchy and tart compliment to richer items off the grill, like ribs or chicken.
Do you have a favorite no-appliance summer recipe? Share it in the comments and we’ll pick our favorites to post on our Facebook page!
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The kitchen—the heart of the home! If you enjoy saving money as much as a home cooked meal, check out these super easy tricks that you can do right now with no equipment and no hassle.
- Here’s a reason to rummage through the bottom cabinet to hunt down that stubborn lid: water boils faster if the pot is covered.
- Unless you’re making an epic pot of chili for 18 people, your meal will cook just fine with the smaller sized heating element on your cook top.
- Turn the cook top or oven off just before the meal is done. You already paid for that residual heat—use it!
- Reheat leftovers in the microwave instead of the oven.
- Speaking of leftovers: plan for them. Double your recipe and freeze half for a stress free, energy saving meal later on.
- Think small, save big: slow cookers, pressure cookers and small electric griddles use less energy than larger, full sized appliances without sacrificing flavor.
- Check the temperature setting on your fridge. Unless you’re chilling down a champion Jello mold, it was designed to work and keep food fresh on the lowest setting.
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On a chilly, snowy or drizzly day in January, it can be tempting go into hibernation until April or move to a tropical island. Since most of us have appointments to keep, families to feed and jobs to do, cranking up the heat seems like the next best option. Except for this not-so-little detail: kicking your furnace into overdrive wastes tons of energy and money. In fact, heating and cooling your home can account for as much as 50 – 70% of your total annual energy bill! So before you send that monthly bill into the stratosphere, try taking advantage of these free or low cost tricks to stay warm and cozy this winter.
Join the Counter Culture
Warm air rises and unless you’re a superhero, you probably spend your time occupying the lower half of the room. Change your ceiling fan to rotate counter-clockwise, so you can enjoy the warm air you’ve already paid for.
During the winter season when the sun is lower in the sky, it’s super easy to let those gorgeous rays shine through your windows. Open blinds and shades fully and take advantage of the free heat!
One of the easiest and fastest ways to warm up is to layer up. Evaluate your wardrobe and invest in some cozy, comfortable items to warm yourself up before you warm the whole house up.
No matter what your diet or taste is, there’s a plethora of soup, stew and chili recipes that will keep your family feeling warm and satisfied. Skip the salad and warm yourself from the inside out.
A nice glass of red wine on a cold winter night? Enough said.
Let’s Get Physical
If you’re feeling energetic and need to banish the chill, pop in a favorite workout video or fire up the Xbox or Wii. You’ll be feeling warm in minutes and getting your daily dose of good old fashioned exercise.
Hug It Out
There’s no better way to warm up than to cuddle with a loved one or a pet. So grab a blanket, pop in a movie and snuggle up.
Have a favorite way to warm up during winter? Please share it in the comments!
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Thanksgiving morning, I get up at o’dark thirty to get the turkey in the oven and the casseroles assembled. Before Macy’s even THINKS about starting the parade, most of our dinner is prepped and ready to pop in the oven. My reward? Black Friday ads.
Yes, I am “one of those.” While I’m tackling the bird, I make the hubby run out and get me the ginormous paper. Then, I sit down with coffee and the ads, creating a master plan for my Black Friday adventure. I love to find steals and deals, and, yes, believe it or not, the camaraderie of shopping with others who enjoy this foray into the holiday shopping frenzy. (Which lasts until about 10am, at which time I grab my latte and head home!)
The shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are a plethora of discounts, freebies and sales. And, since several family members have agreed to a gift price limit and/or homemade gift exchange, I have a little bit of extra money to spend to support our efforts to keep our heating and electric bills down. So where will I focus my spending?
Heating the family. I have lowered the thermostat to 65 degrees during the day while we are gone and while we are in bed; 68 degrees is the day time setting for when we are home. So to help keep everyone warm and grumble-free, I will be looking for: flannel sheets and pajamas; slippers; extra throw blankets; and down comforters. And maybe some of those snuggle blanket things as gifts!
Fun without the cords. Like most families, we are typically plugged in; yes, the spouse and I have actually had a conversation via Facebook while in the same room. But I like for us to have family time together UNplugged as well. For indoor fun, this is a great time of year to find new board games, playing cards, books and crafts really cheap. And, for the 3 snow days Charlotte gets each winter, I will stock up on gloves, scarves and hats. I am also going to look for deals on telescopes and footballs to gift to unnamed family and friends!
Meal planning. No, I don’t mean surfing the web for 101 ways to use up leftover turkey. Small kitchen appliances are a huge loss leader for stores trying to get you in the doors. Slow cooker and toaster oven discounts abound! You can even find deals on microwave ovens. Rather than heating up the entire oven for a dinner for 3, I use my slow cooker a couple of times a week. To share this energy (and mom!) efficient cooking method, several folks on my shopping list might be getting slow cookers this year ~ with some of my favorite recipes to make it extra special!
A couple of additional shopping tips:
Look at the stars. Energy Star appliances, that is. Home appliance and other big box stores will discount dishwashers, dryers, and ovens this time of year. I’m really not in the market right now, as my darling hubby got me new Energy Star-rated appliances a couple of years ago. But if you are looking to update your avocado green for stainless, now might be a good time to check out the deals! (Click here for more info on Energy Star appliances.)
Decorating with less. Less electricity. If you are looking to add to your holiday decorations, you might find some deals on LED lights and solar powered holiday landscape lights. Keep in mind that these will probably not be deeply discounted until AFTER Christmas, but if you need to replace the frayed, tangled spider-web of lights, you should be able to find some sales to take advantage of.
By the way, I cheated. Many “Black Friday” sites already have deals for stores posted, and I found all the items mentioned above at one or more stores!
I’d love to hear what steals and deals YOU find during the holiday season to help reduce your energy consumption and save money.
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Give Thanks for Savings!
Thanksgiving: a cherished time to gather around a delicious meal and reflect on the many people and opportunities that we are lucky to enjoy in life.
Or, you know, the day each year when you completely freak out because your toddler is streaking through the house while your turkey is on fire and your in-laws are sitting on the front porch smoking cigarettes and judging you.
No matter what your perspective is of this annual tradition, it’ll be here next week. If you’re the lucky designated host, you may want to consider these energy and time saving tips to make your holiday less stressful and less expensive.
Right pot, right burner
If your pot of water seems to be simmering even more slowly than your frustration, cover the pot with a lid rather than moving it to a larger burner.
Shut that door!
Frequently opening your oven wastes tons of energy and can lead to longer cooking times. Keep the internal temperature consistent and use your oven light to monitor progress.
Your microwave uses way less energy than an oven and cooks food faster. Less money, less time. What’s not to love?
Load that dishwasher
You know Uncle Ted will be loaded—so why not load up that dishwasher, too? Sure, over imbibing is a little different than packing dishes strategically, but you don’t want a hangover-worthy headache from high bills next month.
A few simple steps can help you save big—without having to sacrifice. So turn on the parade, mix yourself a cocktail and just remember: you have way more control over your energy use than just about any other thing on Thanksgiving.
Have a holiday EE tip? Share it in the comments!
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I actually like cooking. Maybe because I like EATING and no one else in the house is volunteering! But with swim team and lacrosse practices 6 out of 7 nights a week, plus a full time job, plus running the house, plus…plus…plus…Well, you not only get the picture but I’m sure many of you relate!
With our crazy schedule even eating out takes too much time! So what’s a busy parent to do?
Two words: SLOW COOKER!
In recent weeks, there seems to be an uptick in slow cooker interest on Facebook and the web. But I have long been a fan of this nifty kitchen appliance! After that all-important first cup of coffee, I pull all the ingredients together, dump it all in the crock, push a couple of buttons — high/low, timer — and move on with the rest of the day.
And VOILA! I get to come home to the wonderful scents of a lovely meal! (If I’m home, I might even open the windows to share the tantalizing aromas with the neighbors!)
Slow cookers are amazing — easy, convenient, energy efficient!
- Have a hard time following recipes “to the letter?” No problem! Recipes are typically “recommendations.” Don’t have an ingredient? Simple substitutions. Measuring spoons? Nah, eyeball it! (FYI: I HATE baking — all that precise measuring, cakes that NEVER rise like they are supposed to, having to WATCH the cookies so they don’t burn. Way too much work!)
- Not ready to eat when you thought you would? No problem! Most, if not all, slow cookers move to a “warm” function when the set cooking time is done. Still get a hot meal but on YOUR schedule!
- Hate to heat up the kitchen to feed the family? No problem! Slow cookers use less energy AND don’t heat up the kitchen. (Bonus: your A/C doesn’t have to work harder to keep you from sweating, either!)
As a displaced Texan living in the home of Carolina barbecue, I thought I’d share a favorite recipe of mine to get you started: Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Brisket! Let me know how it turns out for you!
This is the first of a series on ways to save you time AND energy in the kitchen — maybe a few bucks too! So check back for more yummy recipes!
Got a favorite slow cooker recipe? Share it with us on our Facebook page.
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Summertime! The season often conjures up images of relaxing weekends by the pool or vacations with friends and family. While you’re taking a much needed break, there is at least one thing working much harder this season: your air conditioner.
I mentioned in an earlier post that the warmer it is outside, the harder your air conditioner has to work to keep the inside cool—so it can be frustrating that we can’t adjust the weather (and seemingly, our bill). Luckily, we’re not at the complete mercy of Mother Nature, because there’s a lot we can do inside to help keep our homes cool. And the daily actions we take can add up to make a big difference.
One of biggest culprits that can zap precious cool air from your home during hot days is the oven. To see just how big an impact it would make, I decided to run a little experiment at home. So last Tuesday night, I chopped some sausage with onions and peppers, tossed it together with diced tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, and popped that Pyrex full of love into the oven for 1 hour at 400 degrees.
Using an indoor thermometer, I tracked the temperature of my kitchen about every 20 minutes until dinner was ready. As you’ll notice, the change was dramatic: the temperature in my kitchen rose by 5 degrees in just one hour and did not return to the original temperature until we were heading up to bed much later that night.
So my personal verdict is in: during the next few warm months, I’m going to let my oven take a long vacation. Instead, I plan to use my grill to cook meats or veggies that I might ordinarily roast, or opt for a no-cook recipe like a fresh salad. I might even opt for the ultimate “energy saving” solution… and head straight to my favorite restaurant.
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