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Monthly Archives: April 2010

April 26, 2010

Safety Tips for Shopping Online

Shopping online has become so convenient and a great way to find great deals. Unfortunately the virtual world can be detrimental to your banking account. Earlier this year, I made a purchase online. Months down the road, my card had unauthorized charges on it. Thankfully my bank was on top of it! Not Made of Money has six tips to share with us to make shopping online safe.

Six Ways to Make Internet Shopping Safe

Stories abound warning consumers about the perils of shopping on the internet. Internet shoppers have every justification to be concerned about the growing problem of identity theft and having their credit card information compromised. Having your identity stolen can be an expensive and complicated matter to clean up.

Don’t think, though, that you have to give up shopping online, altogether. Although nothing will completely eliminate your risks while shopping on the internet, there are some steps you can take to minimize your exposure to these risks.

  • When shopping online, be sure to look for the website’s security policy. Most internet retailers are aware of their customers’ concerns and will explain exactly how the company protects their customers’ information. Expect to find discussions that indicate that the retailer encrypts customer information and that it’s a secure site.
  • Choose one credit card to pay for your internet purchases. If you have the misfortune of having your credit card information stolen, you’ll only have to cancel your credit card. Never use your debit card online; you don’t want thieves to have access to your checking account.
  • Don’t use public computers to shop on the internet. Some web browsers store your information and could be accessed by someone else with the skills to harvest that information.
  • Never email your credit card information whether you’re sending it to a retailer or a friend. Email servers are usually not as secure as the type of software used to process credit card information.
  • Try to choose well-known retailers when shopping online. The larger retailers will have the experience and capital to invest in their website’s security processes to make sure that they are utilizing the latest in internet security. If you just have to have something you find at a smaller website, consider calling their customer service line and giving them your information via the phone.
  • Using a PayPal account to pay for your internet purchases is a way to add an extra layer of security in your internet purchases. Many of the smaller, less secure, websites will allow you to use PayPal to process your payments to them.

Remember that when shopping on the internet to use your common sense when selecting your retailers. If a website doesn’t feel professional, you should probably trust your instincts and look for your product elsewhere.

We are pleased that Not Made of Money will provide a weekly personal finance article to share with us each week!

Photo Credit KCBBB

April 24, 2010

Chicken & Rice Soup Recipe & Unique Add-ins

This is a wonderful and creative recipe! I would have never thought of adding sweet potatoes to soup! Thanks to Connie for this recipe. Check out Cook with Connie for more fantastic recipes!

Soup season is almost over. I love a good, steamy bowl of soup or stew during the fall and winter months. But, I rarely make soups in the summer. It’s just too hot outside! However, these cool spring evenings or rainy spring days still call for a light and healthy soup. With all the pollen in the air, a warm bowl of Chicken & Rice Soup just might be what your sinuses or sore throat needs.
The spring veggies are in, so you could add asparagus or spinach to this easy-to-make classic. If you are lucky enough to have spring onions, you could substitute those to equal about 1 cup. Want to make it in your slow cooker?? After cooking the vegetables, transfer to your slow cooker with all other ingredients and cook on low 4-6 hours.

The trick to serving this soup in no time is to use chicken that you’ve cooked earlier in the week and picked from the bone. Brown rice takes about 45 minutes to cook, so make sure you cook this side dish earlier in the week, too. Brown rice makes this soup a healthier version because it adds fiber. You can easily make a double batch of this soup and freeze it flat in quart-size freezer bags to enjoy later or share with a friend who’s under-the-weather.
Give this feel-good soup a try with one of my suggested add-ins, or add something special to make a classic soup uniquely your own.

Chicken & Rice Soup

2 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 c. chopped celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 (49.5-oz) can low-sodium chicken broth
4 c. water
2 c. cooked chicken
2 c. cooked brown rice
½ t. dried thyme, crushed
salt & pepper to taste

Delicious Add-ins:
1 ½ c. cooked sweet potatoes, cubed…add about 5 minutes before serving to heat through
3-4 c. baby spinach or shredded kale…add with all other veggies
½ to 1 lb. fresh asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces…add with chicken, rice, etc.

In a Dutch over medium-high heat, heat olive oil and cook onion, celery, garlic, and carrots until onions are translucent. Add broth and scrape bits off bottom of pot. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook 30 minutes. Serve with crusty whole-grain bread.

April 12, 2010

Building Creative Raised Garden Beds

It’s time to get your garden ready! Or at least the soil and the early and more hardy plants. I love having a garden and I cannot wait until we have fresh fruit and vegetables. Our strawberries are already blooming and the blackberry bush has buds. The peach tree is also looking hopeful this year! We have been debating to do a traditional in the ground garden or to go back to raised garden beds this year.

Raised Garden Beds are a perfect solution for poor soil, lack of space , or minimal areas of sunlight. Also easy to care for.

We went back to raised garden beds this year since last years crop was a bust (for many reasons but the soil was part of it). Since our garden area is quite large, building raised garden beds can be costly. My husband and I and big proponents of using what you have. We had a garage built this year and we decided to use the leftover scrap wood to build the raised beds. It’s not perfect, but it works!

My husband continued with his creativity and made me an herb starter box. He used a leftover piece of gutter to make the herb box and some scrap wood to secure it. Isn’t that clever?

We did have to bring in top soil and compost as we have clay. The soil was a bit of an expense, but the rest of the garden is pretty frugal. I planted potatoes, onions, green beans, sweet peas, carrots and lettuce this weekend. I will wait a couple more weeks to plant the squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon.

I encourage you all to make some sort of garden this year. It can be as small as a container on your deck or an herb garden on you window seal. Having fresh homegrown produce is wonderful! My boys enjoy the process too. And there is nothing better than a homegrown tomato!

Have you started a garden yet? What are you planning on planting this year?

 

April 11, 2010

Menu Plan for the Week & Beef Stroganoff Recipe

I am attempting to start menu planning again! There is less stress during the week if I take the time to write up a menu plan. The last few weeks have been hectic so meal planning took a back seat. One thing to note, I have not grocery shopped in over a week! My freezer and pantry were stocked so I decided to take a shopping break. I will have to go this week for fruits, vegetables, bread and dairy products.

Breakfast

Homemade Banana Bread– This recipe comes for Erin at $5 Dollar Dinners Cookbook. It is very healthy with no butter or oil. I used my home canned cinnamon applesauce. The boys love it!

Cereal and Milk

Lunch

Sandwiches, Chicken Nuggets, fruit, yogurt, cheese and pretzels

Dinner

MondayFreezer mashed potatoes, grilled chicken, corn and biscuits

TuesdayPork Lo Mein (Use leftover pork from Sunday night)

Wednesday– Chicken Alfredo- I made Connie’s Alfredo Sauce recipe a couple of weeks ago and the boys LOVED it! It is much healthier than traditional Alfredo sauce and it is only takes a few minuted to whip up.

Thursday– Spaghetti

Friday– Grilled steak, baked potatoes

Saturday– Beef Stroganoff using leftover steak

Beef Stroganoff Recipe

6 Tbsp butter
1 pound of top sirloin, cut thin (or use leftover meat or chicken!)
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots or onions
1/2 pound mushrooms (can be fancy variety or just white)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
dash nutmeg
1 cup of sour cream

1) Melt 3 Tbsp. of butter over medium-high heat. Add steak, season with pepper and salt. Cook until browned. Remove steak and keep warm. (If using leftover meat, just skip this step!)

2) Add shallots or onions, mushrooms and remaining butter to pan drippings and cook until tender over medium heat. Add a dash of nutmeg.

3) Reduce heat to low and add sour cream. Mix sour cream in thoroughly and then take off heat. Do not boil the sour cream as it will curdle. Add the beef back in.

4) Serve over egg noodles.

Sunday– Not sure! I will have to see what is on sale this week and what I find at the store!

What is on your menu this week? Do you have the grill out yet? I love grilling season!

This post is linked at Org Junkie.