Broccoli Cheddar Soup….it’s mmm mmm good.

So last night I had some extra time to spend in the kitchen while Kevin was at night class.  It was frigid outside.  I had broccoli in the fridge I needed to use–and sharp cheddar cheese in the freezer begging to be devoured.  Cold…broccoli…cheese…yep, it was definitely  the night to satisfy my stomach, no, soul, with some broccoli cheddar soup.  First things first- it’s probably imperitive that you know Panera probably qualifies as my favorite restaurant, because they serve my favorite FAVORITE soup….their thick, creamy, broc-ched soup is a little gift from heaven poured into a bowl (or bread bowl, on occasion).  There’s just something about soup– and creamy soups for that matter — that really warm you up and satisfy you on a cold day.  So, because I hate spending money as you all know, and because I had a creative spark, I decided it was high time I really perfect my  broccoli cheddar soup recipe.

I’ve made soup plenty of times.  I enjoy it.  I love to stand in front of the stove and cook for a while and in the end have a huge pot full of yumminess to share (or hoard to myself).  I make pretty darn good soup, too, and my broccoli cheddar is not an exception.  I make sure its cheesy and creamy and full of fat love.  But, I decided that no matter how good people agreed my soup was, I wanted to embody Panera, at least for tonight.  Their’s has this special little something that makes it so easy to consume a whole bowl before realizing there’s no more left to savor.  So…time for some research into their recipe.

 

If you google for a panera recipe, chances are, you can find quite a few recipes that mock their soups/sandwiches etc.  Many of them have 4 or 5 stars, and plenty of reviews to help you make it the best it can be.  To me, though, they were lacking some sparkle, a dazzle.  Something was surely missing, because I make recipes OFTEN similar to what I saw, and there was still something missing.  So then I googled about what flavors help to bring out cheese or broccoli flavors.  A few hits, a few misses, I got some ideas.  Then, I decided…it’d probably be easier to just taste test.

 

And so it was born.  An idea and a recipe that tastes amazing and can repair any type of heartbreak or turmoil.  Once I was done cooking this soup, I had already consumed at least 1/4 of the batch, and went back for another big bowlful right after.  This soup was amazing.  This soup was to die for.  If I do say so myself– I found their secret, used it to my advantage, and should become super rich selling this crack-soup out of my kitchen.

 

Hungry? Go make some of this.  Follow my directions.  Let me know how much you love it.  And do yourself a favor and ignore the nutritional content when it comes to calories.  You’ll thank yourself and me.  Now, go…get cooking.

 

Panera Knock-off Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

by Kate 🙂

 

Ingredients:

1 TBSP butter or oil (to saute onion)
1/2 medium onion, chopped (i used a sweet onion)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half (this is equal to the pint containers you can find at the store)
2 cups chicken broth
2-4 cups of broccoli crowns, fresh and cut (range depends on how much broccoli flavor you want)
1 cup carrots, shredded small enough to cook and soften
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon secret ingredient *hint: it’s nutmeg*
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese + some for sprinkling on top, if you wish

 

Now- for the directions.  I took pictures all the while I was cooking in case anyone needed reference points! I hope it helps 🙂

 

First, melt the tablespoon of butter in a pan and chop the onion.

Add in the onion and stir it while cooking for 4-5 minutes until the onion is soft and golden, then set aside.

Melt butter in pot and whisk in flour, constantly stirring.

You don’t want the flour to burn.

Cook while stirring for around 3 minutes, then slowly pour in half-and-half.  Still whisk until all combined.

 

Add in chicken broth, continuing to whisk.

 

Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, chop broccoli and carrots.

When 20 minutes is up, add in veggies and stir.

Cook mixture for another 20 minutes.  The liquid should be thick at this point.

Add salt and pepper.  I used about 1 teaspoon each.

Once time is up, carefully pour into a blender if you like your soup without chunks of veggies.  I did this as Kevin doesn’t really like big chunks in his soup.

Return to pot, stir in cheese and heat until melted.

Then, add in the nutmeg and cook for another few minutes.  The nutmeg cuts down on the ‘bite’ of the cheese and really makes the flavors blend!

 

The only thing left to do is put some into a bowl to eat…or eat right from the pot, as I did.  YUM!  Hope you enjoy 🙂  Any questions or comments, please let me know!

 

You’re welcome, guys.

Free or Moneymaking Lotion at Walgreens!

You lucky ducks! You’ve got me looking after you and your wallet at all times! Now, I’m even looking after your skin! Get your butts over to Walgreens this week for this great deal!!

This week at Walgreens, if you buy 3 Carmex Body products, you get 1000 Balance Rewards points. These are new points that you keep on the new store loyalty card out by Walgreens. It is free to open an account, and 1000 points is equal to $1.00 and so forth. So, make sure you get their card (takes all of 2 minutes to sign up online and they can scan a virtual card right off your phone if you want) and use it when purchasing. If you head over to Carmex on Facebook, they have $1 coupon that you can print 2x per computer/account. Head over here to print!

If you can, use 2 computers to get 3 prints of the coupon and you’ll have a moneymaking scenario. Otherwise, 2 will net you free lotion after the balance rewards!

This is simple. If you’re looking for a deal to get you going with coupons, try this one and let me know how it goes!

Silly Walgreens has their travel size Carmex lotions on sale for $0.99 each and they are included in the Carmex Balance Reward deal. So, if you bought 3 for $2.98 and got back $1 in BR, you would have gotten 3 tubes of lotion for $1.98…not terrible, but we can do better.
Enter coupons…

Buy (3) small tubes of Carmex lotion ($2.98)
Use (2) $1.00 off Carmex skin care coupon from Facebook (no size restrictions!)
Pay $0.98 and get back $1.00 in BR for a balance of FREE!! for 3 tubes of lotion!

You can see where this deal gets better with a 3rd print of the coupon…

Buy (3) lotions ($2.98)
Use (3) $1 off coupons (3rd coupon will adjust down to 0.98)
Pay nothing except possible tax, and get $1 in rewards- for a net PROFIT of $1 and 3 lotions!!!

Happy couponing!

20121106-142835.jpg

Sunday spelled L-A-U-N-D-R-Y( update! )

**UPDATE**  Oh my god this is the most amazing detergent ever in the history of ever….. This seriously made my clothes SO PERFECT.  Clean and they smelled amazing…and WITHOUT softener, I have NEVER felt my clothes this soft EVER!! I am singing from the hilltops I am so happy! 🙂 Good luck!

 

 

Well, hello again!  Did anyone else not really feel much change with the extra hour we got last night? I was so looking forward to feeling amazing with an extra hour of sleep….I feel fine, sure, but I still wanted to stay in bed forever!  However, today is really sunny and quite warm compared to lately, so it’s shaping up to be a good day.  Kevin is at work as usual, and that’s okay–because I am seriously behind on laundry and cleaning.  You know how sometimes it seems to just creep up on you?  It hasn’t been creeping anymore…more like stomping.  So today I better get a lot done– or we won’t have any clean clothes or food to eat!

Yesterday I had plans to clean and do laundry, too, but then I realized I needed to hit some stores and such…so I saved it for today.  I also cut off about 6 inches of hair!  I’ve been meaning to get a cut and get rid of all the nasty split ends…and finally, it was time.  I really like it so far! I’ll post a picture later…so far, it’s a LOT easier to manage so you won’t hear me complain about that!!! 🙂

Now…back to laundry.  I know I coupon, and I coupon pretty well in my opinion.  But even with savings and freebies (at times) and everything else, I still can’t get over how much money laundry supplies cost.  Given, I get a lot of them for nearly free or free, but I still don’t really like having to buy it all the time or waste some of my overage from other items on laundry detergent.  I’ve been reading about making homemade laundry detergent on a few different blogs and Pinterest for a while now and I’ve been dying to try it out!  I was a bit hesitant, because as with anything, there were mixed reviews, and I didn’t know if it would be hard or not to make.

I read and read and read, and decided that there was no recipe that was EXACTLY what I thought I wanted, so I tweaked a few and did some thinking and came up with what I’m hoping will be a perfect recipe!  Not only will I know that there aren’t a million chemicals in my laundry detergent and that I’ll save a lot of packaging, but the sheer savings and cost comparison should be unbelievable!  (That is, as long as this works…I’ve got my first load washing as I write!)

My recipe:

Kate’s Laundry Detergent

1 bar of soap (any kind you like; I used Dial Tangerine-Guava)

1 1/3 cup WASHING soda (this is different than baking soda)

1 cup Borax

2 1/2 gallons water

Essential oils (optional)

Vinegar or other softener (optional, again)

First- take a grater and grate the bar of soap, letting it fall in a giant pot. I used the whole bar…but I’ve read that you don’t HAVE to…you can get by with just 1/2 or so.  However, I got my soap for free, so I wasn’t worried about money here.  This step I thought might be tedious or take a long time, but it went really quickly, and I was amused with the itty bitty curly cues of soap…it doesn’t take much to amuse me.  Anyway, once I finished, I added in 1 gallon of HOT water, whisking it to start the shreds of soap to melt.  I transferred the pot to my stove and started heating it over medium heat.  You want it to get hot enough to melt all the soap shreds, but not boil or anything like that.  I stirred frequently during this step, but you have to stir smoothly- otherwise it gets sudsy and you can’t see if the soap is melted!  I think maybe about 10-15 minutes went by while I heated it–I could have made it go faster, but I wasn’t in a hurry and I didn’t want to   worry about it bubbling over or something. (I just stepped away and put some things away in the dining room and kitchen while it heated.)

Next up, I added in the washing soda and borax, and then I stirred like a crazy woman to make sure it all got incorporated.  This is the step where is started to get REALLY thick and goopy.  So when this happens- don’t worry! It’s normal.  This detergent isn’t “liquid”…it’s more of…a….gelatinous or jello-like substance.  So, I kept stirring and added in some essential oils that were really just to bring out more of the scent, since I like my laundry to smell tasty…but doing that really was unnecessary ..the mixture seriously smelled amazing.  Like I said, I picked one of my favorite soaps, so how could I go wrong?  Based on my readings, I  could have taken the pot off the stove right now, but I also saw some people that said it helps to bring it to a boil to make the ingredients really stay incorporated.  So, I put it to higher heat and stirred constantly til it boiled.  I will say…it didn’t look like a normal “boil” because the top was covered with foam…but I could kind of ‘hear’ the boil starting…and it got foamier, so then I turned off the heat and moved the pot.  It is during this step that if you wanted to add some vinegar in as a softening agent, you could, but my soap had plenty of softener in it- and my water is soft- so I knew i wouldn’t need it.  You could also choose to use a fabric softener with this detergent on a load-by-load basis, it’s totally your call.  There are some good looking softener recipes out there, too…that might be next on my list!

Anyway, I bought a big container that I knew would hold 2 gallons AT LEAST, and that had a secure lid with a big enough opening that I could fit a scoop and my hand in.  It ended up being a pet-food storage container (a giant tupperware, really…).  You could definitely pour this into milk jugs like some do, or store it right in the pot, but since it doesn’t actually stay LIQUID, I figured it would be easier to scoop.  So, I poured the still hot mixture into the container along with a gallon of COLD water and mixed them up.  It started getting even thicker almost right away! I enjoyed stirring it…gave me a good workout. 😛  Then, since the container and contents were hot, I didn’t close the lid…I just left it sit out!  But that was it! All the work was done, and I now have a giant container of laundry detergent ready for my disposal!  About 1/2 cup of the solution per regular load is said to be the amount to do the trick! Like I said, I’m testing it right now–so we will see!

Over the next hour or so, I had to put together a shelving unit for my stockpile, and I returned maybe 2 times to the kitchen to see if it had changed and to give it a stir.  The borax tends to rise to the top a bit and it is easy to stir it back in.  If you don’t want to, you certainly wouldn’t have to re-stir it, I just wanted it to look uniform.  Each time I came back it was significantly thicker, eventually becoming about the consistency of custard.  Ew…I know…but hey- It smelled awesome and based on the ingredients, I’m really thinking it should work.  So, I eventually finished with the shelf (try doing that on the floor with a puppy who thinks the hammer looks like a really fun toy!)  and sorted out our MOUNTAIN of laundry.  I would post a picture of that, as well, but that is too embarrassing….

So- now we wait for this load to get out of the dryer so we can judge.  It smelled really good when I took it out of the washer…but REMEMBER…this does NOT suds up.  There is virtually NO bubbles or suds when you use it.. Foam and suds does not mean clean.  This would work really well in HE washers too since the suds are minimal.  But let’s get to the amazing part of this.

The box of borax cost me $3.12.  The washing soda cost me $2.44.  The soap was free- as were the supplies that I already had.  Both the borax and washing soda were quite large boxes….and since each batch only used a bit of it, these boxes will last for at least 8-9 more batches…but I’m guesstimating.  Now that I looked over at them, I read the amounts.  There will be 9 batches in the boxes.  And I didn’t mention how many loads I should be able to get from the batch I made today.  A whopping 64 loads!! Can you believe that?  I think that is pretty darn awesome for using a 1/2 cup of detergent and only taking about 30 minutes to make.  So wait…let’s do that math.  For roughly $6.00, I am going to be able to make multiple batches of 64 loads…so….for that $6, I will have detergent for…..576 loads of laundry!  That is a YEARS worth of laundry detergent for $6!!!!  Talk about PENNY PINCHING.  That works out to be around a PENNY per load.  Wow…I am so darn proud of myself.  Don’t mean to toot my own horn, but TOOT TOOT!

I am so anxious to see how the clothes come out!  They should be clean, fresh, and soft!  EEK! I wish my dryer was faster.  Now, I do use dryer balls in my dryer because they help speed up the drying and tend to fluff the clothes a bit, helping them to soften.  If you don’t own any…just make your own!  All you have to do is wad up some foil and toss it in.  BAM!  Instant solution.

I just can’t get over the 576 loads…maybe a few less if I add more detergent to a really soiled load, but STILL!  It’s unbelievable.  And I guarantee I could get the ingredients for less than $6 if I searched.  I’m just in shock over the price.

I think I’ll be saying good-bye to store bought detergent forever!  Which will not bother me one bit.  This detergent can be basically altered to fit ANYONEs preferences.  You can pick whatever scent you like!  You can use a soap meant for sensitive skin!  You can wash diapers with it! You can clean any washable material with this.  The borax will totally remove any funky smells and the soap and soda will remove even tough stains!  I put Kevin’s work jeans in with the first load…and if they come out clean, then this is a miracle detergent.  Those things were so gross I think they could walk on their own.

I’ll put some pics up of the process for those of you who like visuals!  And I’ll be sure to update how my laundry turns out!!!  Happy Laundry Day folks!  If you have any questions or comments- I’ll be happy to answer!

Scrub a dub….

Kate

Ugh…you know what?  All of the pictures posted backward.  It starts with the finished product and ends with the beginning process! I am too lazy to try to fix it..sorry! Just scroll to the bottom and work back up. 🙂

Image

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Hope you enjoy!  I will let everyone know if I have clean clothes or not! 🙂

Well, Hello to the World!

…am I really going to do this?  Who knows…it wouldn’t be the first thing I tried that didn’t work out…but then again, I’d like to hope I can forge my way into a fun new activity.

I have a job.  I like the job…the people are nice, when I leave work, I’m generally in the clear until I arrive back, and the pay is reasonable.  But if I closed my eyes and had to envision my one true passion; the thing I saw as my calling in life–I’d have to say it goes more along the lines of being a domestic goddess.  I love to clean our home.  I look forward to making a good meal every night and packing our lunches in the morning.  I go nuts with coupons.  Put a spatula in my hand and I’ll bake ’til I run out of flour.  If my fiance allowed me to, I might even have stocked up on baby clothes…but in the notion to not seem TOTALLY crazy, we’ve decided I should probably wait on that one.

But, really, I can’t wait to be a mom.  I can’t wait to be a wife.  (not in that order…but you get the picture.)  I, and thankfully my darling fiance, see a real value in homemaking.  It’s a shame that more women (and men, for that matter) scoff at the idea of putting meals on the table for their loved ones, or enjoying the simplicity in hanging clothes out on the line to dry.

Did you know that on average, the American family spends more than $3,000 on food away from home per year?  This includes fast food, eating out, vending machines, etc.  Now, I’m the first to admit that now again I love a McNugget or CrunchWrap, but really guys!???  $3000?!!! Do you have any idea how much food you could make for that amount? Or better yet–what you could do with that money by making food that amounts to LESS than that amount?  Especially with food prices on the rise, and people being busier than ever, I get that it just doesn’t seem plausible for many to find time to cook, or learn to cook for that matter.  Enter the internet.  Enter YouTube.  Enter older relatives (or anyone from a time where everyday cooking wasn’t unheard of).  There are millions of resources to not only teach you to cook, but how to save time and $$MONEY$$ while doing it!

One of my favorite kitchen appliances (other than my beloved coffee pot) is my Crockpot.  There is just something indescribable about tossing a few ingredients into a pot, plugging it in, and coming home 8 hours later to a warm, tender, DELICIOUS meal waiting for you!  Sometimes I almost feel like I’m cheating it’s so easy…but sooooo worth it.

I’m also a HUGE fan of Freezer meals!  While I don’t quite subscribe to OAMC (once a month cooking), I do thoroughly enjoy making meals ahead of time, and DEFINITELY thank myself on days when life gets crazy and you’re starving and your significant other is looking at you with hunger on his mind and you forgot to defrost the chicken.

Kevin works at least one day each weekend, and I work M-F only.  That leaves us with a little bit of a schedule bummer, but in reality, gives me a full day of hopefully uninterrupted bliss.  Doing what I do best.  Laundry-check.  Dishes-check.  Vacuuming-check.  Clean bathrooms-check.  Scrub floors-check.  Pick up dirty socks all over the place from Mr. Kevin’s lazy feet-double check.  Make our bread for the week (more on this later)-check.  And also–cook our meals!!  Not just for Saturday and Sunday–but if I’m lucky, squeeze out another few for the freezer or fridge for the coming week(s).  If nothing else, it’s amazing how much time you can save by prepping meals all at once.  I can chop veggies for several meals all at once in much less time than it would take me to chop individually per meal.  My frugality itches here too–it’s amazing the amount of money you can save.  I won’t even launch into the whole coupon thing yet- but buying in bulk or with the sale rotations can save $$$$$$amounts you never thought possible.

God has blessed me with a roof over my head, a man to share my life with and to serve, a job where I’m appreciated, skills to share, and love and health in myself.  You better believe I will thank Him every day by being the woman He created me to be!

I hope that I can fill you in on a whole lot more in the coming days and weeks.  I’m not crazy (at least from a clinical standpoint…)and I have a lot of passions not yet discussed.  But I hope that you’ll bear with me as I document life as it happens- and appreciate what I can share!

Until the next cup is poured,

KateImage