Works-for-Me Wednesday!

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So it’s the backwards edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday, which I am excited for! All through my college years and the first few years in an apartment, I had less-than-adequate baking sheets. They were brown and dingy, somehow becoming yuckier and filthier with each use. I gladly trashed those terrible pans, and slowly, I have been able to add higher quality items through the last few years.

Last Christmas, I got a gift card to Williams-Sonoma, a store that I dearly love, yet can’t afford a single thing in. I splurged and got several nice items, including a new half sheet pan. I was so excited!! I quickly put it to use. Unfortunately, my new sheet pan has the same grossness as the old. I tried to scrub it, but just managed to scrub off the finish instead in one big spot. So, give me your tips and suggestions! No, I’m not even willing to post a photo, because I’m that annoyed! Yes, I’ve tried baking soda, Borax, SOS (bad), a sponge, hot water soak, Dawn, Dawn Power Dissolver (amazing for stovetops though!)… but I’m open to any new secret you have!

Gift giving is expensive…

Gift giving is expensive, so this year, I made it my goal to reduce the amount of money we spend. I find that hard to do because we have such generous families and friends who are always gifting us waaaaay more than we could ever gift. Anyway, I am trying to make as many of the gifts as I can.

For my friend’s housewarming party, I made some of Bakerella’s Puppy cake pops. Man, these were hard to make! You can see below the final product, which is not as cute as Bakerella’s, but it’s a start. 🙂 Also included in the cake pop “bouquet” is a Target gift card because regardless of money-saving measures, Target can be considered a life necessity.

I am also making all the cards we give. They are just way too expensive in the store. Even the $1 cards multiplied by the 5-8 birthdays per month add up by year’s end. I’ll post some of my creations soon.

I love saving money!

The teensy tiny itty-bitty jar of poppy seeds on the right was $3.99. The giant jar on the left was only $1.99. I was very happy to find this at the Christmas Tree Shop store that recently opened in my area. They aren’t even expired. 😉

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DSC_0012, originally uploaded by Adventures in Amberland.

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DSC_0012, originally uploaded by Adventures in Amberland.

$7,500… what to do?

I’ve been reading this great blog, Mrs. Micah’s Finance for a Freelance Life, for awhile now. The blog features all sorts of information on debt repayment, credit cards, home mortgages, etc. It’s very helpful for me in particular because Mrs. Micah is dealing with car payments, credit cards, school loans, and such. All right up my alley. 🙂

So, I posed a question to Mrs. Micah:
As a first-time homebuyer in 2008, I received a $7,500 tax refund this year. The deal is that the government will take $500 out of my tax refund every year for the next 15 years until it’s paid off. Additionally, if I move before 15 years, I have to pay off whatever is left immediately. (Not too worried about this, for various reasons.)

Anyway, I took the money. So, should I pay off debt with the money? Or should I just put the money in savings for emergencies? Or should I put it aside in case I move in 5 years? I’m just not sure what is the most financially-responsible thing to do. Perhaps you could address this in a post, as I know there are probably many other people in a similar situation.

Mrs. Micah broke down my question into a few easy parts and laid all the information out. And now I know what to do. So if you’re looking for a great blog on money written in regular words and spoken by someone who knows what it’s like, visit www.mrsmicah.com.

I needed hamburger buns…

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In honor of Works-for-Me Wednesday, I thought I would post a new twist on basic dinner items.

I needed hamburger buns, but I didn’t want to put on shoes and go to the store. So I came up with this recipe called, hmm, Mexican Corn Cake Surprise. OK, that sounds suspicious, so I’ll go with Mexican Fiesta Burgers. There we go!

What you need:
1 lb. ground beef
1 box of cornbread mix
2 cans of black beans
cornmeal
garlic
oil
cheese for topping
taco seasoning
crushed red peppers
parsley and/or chives (whatever you have)

Start with the beans. Dump two cans of black beans into a pan. Do not drain!! Use a potato masher to mash most of the beans. Season with taco seasoning and red pepper flakes to taste. Stir, and they’re done!

Next, make cornbread mix according to package instructions (typically add egg and milk to box mix). Add taco seasoning, parsley and/or chives, and red pepper flakes to taste. Add a small handful of cornmeal to make the dough thicker. The consistency should be thicker than pancake batter. Drop big spoonfuls into 1 Tbsp. of oil in a frying pan. I got 8 large corncakes from 1 box of mix.

Next, make the hamburger patties. I add garlic, red pepper flakes, cornmeal, parsley, and chives to make a flavorful burger. Mix together and form into patties.

Side note: I was taking some random photos and noticed that my long-neglected, left-out-all-winter chives are coming back without any prodding from me! That’s why chives are used in this recipe… otherwise, I wouldn’t because they are way too expensive in the store! Too bad the other herbs didn’t come back…

Cook the hamburger patties. We normally grill, but it was raining. Geez, the 73-27 ground beef is very greasy! But we’re on a budget and ground chuck or sirloin are at least a dollar more…

Below is the final product. I added goat cheese on top because if I add it to my meal, I feel less guilty about slicing it off and gobbling it up.  I added a basic spinach salad on the side. I used our new favorite viniagrette, courtesy of Rachael Ray. It’s the perfect mix of salty and spicy and nutty. (Yes, I know it’s Asian, and our meal is Mexican, but we’re all about global tastes here.)

Wasabi-Soy Viniagrette
1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons -virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients except oil. Drizzle in 3 Tbsp. oil and whisk until emulsified (creamy). Dress salad.

Below is the final product. Enjoy!