Winter Cole Slaw

cole slaw 2 OK.  Yes.  I have posted my recipe for cole slaw before.  I just had to do it again because delicious fresh cabbages  literally abound at local farmer’s markets right now!  The high vitamin C and sulphur content in cabbage gives it strong detoxification properties.  High in vitamins and fiber, low in cost and de-lish make it a winter winner at our house.  This recipes forgoes the all-too-common-and-very-unhealthy ingredient of mayonnaise.  Fear not! After you taste this cole slaw you’ll never reach for a jar of that white stuff again.

Ingredients: 1/2 head cabbage (green, red or a combination), chopped; 1-2 carrots, shredded; few slender pieces red onion (don’t need to much); 1/4 cup cider vinegar; 1/4 cup olive oil; 2 tbsp sugar; few dashes salt and pepper

Directions: While you are prepping the veggies, bring the vinegar, olive oil and seasonings to a boil on the stove top.  With the sugar in there this will happen in about 2 minutes, maybe less.  Mix your now kinda-syrupy and warm vinaigrette and pour it over the top of your naked veggies.  Toss all this yummy stuff together and you’re pretty much there, my friend.

Kinda important tip: This recipe tastes great after hanging out in the fridge over night.  This month’s photo includes a double batch of the recipe above.  Why?  Because it gets even better after a few more days… leftovers = YES!!

Not as important tip: I usually give a big batch a stir after several hours to make sure all the vinegar-oil mixture doesn’t rest on the bottom.  Pairs well with chicken, burgers, tastes great on tacos–have fun!
Final thought.  Still with me?  Doesn’t this salad look absolutely gorgeous!?  OK.  Now go get something else done.  Seriously.

Double Header

cake

So we threw a double-header birthday party last Saturday (Rhea’s favorite part of the cake pictured here.)  Two of my three kiddos turn a year older within a week of one another, and this year I decided to combine and conquer.  It was a total blast–so much fun, in fact, that I didn’t even think to grab my camera much during the festivities.  I was completely immersed in the excitement!

Lucky for me my kiddos have made friends with children of parents I love to hang with, so, I’ll admit it, it was kind of like a big party for me too.

I love to throw parties.  LOVE IT.  I always wanted a big sunny house so that I could cook up a bunch of food and make pitchers of sangria, and then invite over my family, neighbors and friends to eat, drink and be silly with us.

Entertaining can be expensive though–and I am a thrifty girl by nature.  I won’t short change my guests’ party experience and I wouldn’t dream of serving cheap, crummy food (heaven’s no!)  For me there’s something about the challenge of working from a budget and making due with clever vs. expensive/easy that gets my party juices flowin’.  Even if I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d still do stuff from scratch and play the party-budget game each time.  Keeps my on my toes and my children don’t need wedding-reception style parties to celebrate life anyway.

Here are my top 7 tips for throwing BIG, fun, manageable and affordable fiestas:

1. Plan ahead with food prep.  Making your own food is key to saving money.  I shopped for groceries on Wednesday and started prepping food on Thursday.   Working on my menu on Thursday and Friday helped break up my efforts and not make the time investment feel so burdensome.

Prepare as much as possible before the party to insure a more relaxed time for the hosts!  Even though we served grilled chicken at Rhea’s party, I baked the chicken on Friday.  This way Mike could toss it on the grill for 10 minutes to warm it up.  Done!

2.  Double up or share resources if possible.  By throwing two parties in one day I cleaned my house once, prepared a ton of food once, and cleaned up once.  My middle child is already pondering ways to stretch the dollar for her October birthday–and even suggested we team up with another October-baby friend so the families could share some of the costs. “Plus we invite the same kids anyway, mama!”  I don’t know if these plans will materialize but that’s my girl!

3. Choose food items wisely. For example, I made a triple batch of my cole slaw.  Cabbage is inexpensive, and cole slaw actually tastes better after sitting in the fridge for a couple of days (made mine on Thursday!)  Grayson (first party) wanted Dodger Dogs and Rhea (fiesta numero dos) wanted chicken and ribs.  Cole slaw goes with both!

Make pitchers of lemonade or punch instead of purchasing expensive juice boxes  (saves on trash too.)

4. Bake your own cake.  No-brainer from a financial standpoint.  I like Trader Joe’s Vanilla with real vanilla bean cake mix.  It tastes homemade and if you’re not a baking fan (hi!) you can save the headache and still impress your guests.

5. Instruct kids to write thank-you notes before the party.  I got this idea from my sister, Deb, and I absolutely love it.  “An attitude of gratitude” is a very important concept at our house.  Rather than having my kids write out thank you notes for gifts, they now write out a “thank you for helping me celebrate” note that gets handed out to guests upon departure.  Not only is there more motivation to write notes before the party, I like the emphasis on thanking friends for their presence, not just their presents.

Grayson’s (dual immersion kindergarten) notes are in Spanish as that’s the only phonetic system he can use at the moment.  Each note says “Thank you for coming to my party!”

thank you notes

6. When appropriate, include kids in financial decision making.  Like I said, I stick to my party budget.  We usually have pinatas for our birthdays, but I suggested to Rhea and Grayson that since we were doubling up our party fun, we could splurge a little and get a bouncer for the day–but doing so would mean no pinata for either one.  I want my kids to feel celebrated, yes, but I think it’s important for them to understand that money doesn’t magically appear in my wallet in copious amounts.  We can do a lot of things, but we can’t do everything.

7. If you can swing it, I really must advise you to rent a Gy-normous Tweety Bird Bouncer like this honkin’ thing:

bouncer

Although we normally don’t go the “bouncer route” for our birthdays, by doubling up Mike and I could justify the cost.  And then, for an extra 15 bucks we got this larger, super-ridiculous bounce-house. (I mean, seriously, does it get more ridiculous than this?)

My kids, seen here with a neighbor, were literally speechless when they saw this thing inflate.  12 or so kids could easily jump around inside.  Between the two parties, neighbors coming over in between and my extended family wrapping things up at the end, there was someone jumping up and down in this thing for eight hours straight.  Toh-tally worth it.

Thank you, everyone, who took time to come bounce-eat-drink with us on Saturday.  Rhea and Grayson had a ball (and Josie too!) and so did Mike and I.  We feel extremely blessed to have our three amazing kids and so many great friends to party with!

SLAW

slaw

I’ve a confession to make.  Lately I’ve been a little OCD about cole slaw.  I know, right?  Of all things…

Since my “mouthy no worky” due to illness early this month, I’ve been slowly regaining my sense of taste.  For a few weeks now, even though my tongue is regaining a purpose in life, I’ve been desperate for foods that tasted like the good ‘ol days.

Enter: vinegar.  So I got a hankerin’ for some slaw one day and this idea turned in a two week long mission to find the perfect cole slaw recipe.  I decided that when I developed the recipe I liked, I’d post about it.

My friends, that day has come.

Michelle’s (and Mike, my girlfriend Lisa and daughter Josie’s) Fave Cole Slaw

Ingredients: 1/2 head cabbage, chopped; 2 carrots, shredded; few slender pieces red onion (don’t need to much); 1/4 cup cider vinegar; 1/4 cup olive oil; 2 tsp sugar; few dashes salt; dash pepper

Directions: While you are prepping the veggies, bring the vinegar, olive oil and seasonings to a boil on the stove top.  With the sugar in there this will happen in about 2 mins, maybe less.  Mix your now kinda-syrupy and warm vinaigrette and pour it over the top of your naked veggies.  Toss all this yummy stuff together and let it sit for a few hours before serving.  That’s it!

Tips: I like unfiltered cider vinegar (but then I’ve been working on jump starting  my taste buds so it could just be me.)  I played around with several cole slaw recipes before I deduced this one.  I don’t mind the mayonnaise type slaws, but they are so darn unhealthy that I figured I’d put my energy into the vinegar based kind.

The real secret with this recipe lies in the heating of the dressing before putting it on the veggies.  It doesn’t blanch the cabbage, per se, but the heat does do a little voo-doo which is nice.  Plus, heating dissolves the sugar and makes for a nice light syrup.

This recipe is pretty mild, actually, but makes for a great side dish for BBQ chicken, tacos, ribs, sandwiches.   I like this slaw because it’s easy-tasty-healthy (my three fave food adjectives!)

There are fancier concoctions that yield some nicely complex slaw situations, but for the effort, cost and taste, this  simple slaw recipe gets my vote.

Finally (seriously, how much can a person say about cabbage!?) I never knew how darn healthy cabbage is for ya!  It’s loaded with fiber, vitamin C, E, calcium, serves as a blood detoxifier… plus it’s cheap as heck and literally lasts for weeks in the fridge.  No wonder it’s such a big staple for so many cultures world wide.

OK.  I’m done.