Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chili. Yeah.

Chili is one of those things you should be able to do without a recipe, just dumping beany things in a pot. Chilis vary widely - I grew up with a really tomato based chili with macaroni noodles, Dave's mom makes some great chili with canned corn and no tomatoes.

Last week I was running low on monies and had a whack of beans in the pantry it was time for chili.

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen's recipe I made some delicious beanerific chili which Dave and I both enjoyed quite a bit. Our digestive systems had very strong feelings about it later, but that's the chance you take with Mexican cuisine.

This recipe can be adapted to whatever you want. Add corn, add more veggies, leave out some beans, add new ones, add meat, add tofu, cilantro + sour cream for the end, etc. This is very very open to interpretation, so go for it.

Jen’s Three-Bean Chili

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 humongous onion, diced

2 carrots, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

4 white mushrooms, sliced
1 15-ounce can of white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-ounce plus one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup water or stock
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste
Sliced green onions, for garnish

Heat vegetable oil in a large pot, adding diced onion, and sautéing until browned. Add carrots, celery and mushrooms and heat through. Add beans, tomatoes, water or stock and spices, including cocoa, all at once, letting mixture simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Top with lovely cheese (like pepper cheddar from Mount Pleasant Cheese) and serve. Obviously this is great for lunches and freezing.


While I'm plugging Cambie Village small businesses, I have to mention Kreation bakery in between 17th and 18th on Cambie. Check out these cupcakes! Moist chocolate cake and the icing is raspberry with REAL raspberries in it!! SO delicious. If you're ever in the neighbourhood make sure you check this place out - They have way more than just cupcakes too, check their site out.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Grow Spring Grow!

When I headed out to my mini deck garden today to get some parsley for my lovely rice soup I realize this could be a good thing to share with you.

Not only does having plants improve your life it's also a great way to save a buck or two if you focus on cultivating a vegetable garden (for those with time, patience, and a green thumb) or some potted herbs and a lovely rosebush for people like me!

I grew 5 different kinds of herbs last year, but I never used them enough to keep them from overgrowing, so I decided on two this year - Parsley and Cilantro(Coriander.) It's been working out great and it's so nice to just grab a tablespoon or two and not waste half of a huge bunch.

I bought the plants for 3 or 4 bucks each and used 39 cent planters to give them bigger pots. I'll have nice fresh herbs all summer long and hopefully into the winter! What a savings!

With Vancouver's community gardens program, potential green thumbs would get a kick out of a great space work work on your craft, even if you live in an apartment.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Love/Hate - Cumin & Rice soup, Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins.

Man do I love cumin.

Lately I can try it out it on anything (see here) and it's amazing.

Should I ever find myself going to a place where my life would be guaranteed, but the food would be questionable cumin would definitely be on my top 5 list.

I love Lists


1. Cumin - sure I love a dried herb like the rest of 'em, but this warm spice can change any bland dish to pure magic. It's good in soups, stews, on fish and veggies.

2. Tubers - I have a love affair with potatoes. There's no denying it. If I had my choice I'd bring some waxy yellow wonders, divine fingerlings, orangey garnet yams, and some good old russets. They're also easy to grow!

3. Dark Chocolate - Mmm Mmm how could I live without some nice 67% cocoa chocolate.

4. Canned Tomatoes - Add cumin and tomatoes to any piece of pigeon meat or giant spider and it would make it taste great! Pour it over some potatoes... yum!

5. Salt - Necessary. Basic. awesome. Nothing can alter the flavour of a dish quite like this. An absolute essential.

And now, what you've all been waiting for:

Gotta love Kickpleat over at ELS I can search anything in her recipes and she'll provide the guidelines for a simple delish dinner.

I had $20 and a fairly filled pantry (including 2 cups of old cooked rice) to get me though this week, so I dropped 12 dollars at Choices and made these two dishes.

chickpea, rice & pasta soup (adapted slightly from ELS)
1 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
4c vegetable stock
1 T cumin
1 t red chili pepper flakes
1-2 c cooked leftover brown rice
1 can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
salt & pepper
fresh parsley sprigs, chopped

In a large pot, heat up olive oil over med-high heat and add in onion, garlic, and celery. Let them get soft and translucent and then add in the salsa and the spices. Add in rice, chickpeas and pasta and cover with vegetable stock, adding more stock if needed. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer. Taste and add in salt and pepper if needed. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parsley.

---- You could add anything you have in your fridge or pantry to this soup. Kickpleat enjoyed it with alphabet pasta, I would've added carrots if I had them.

This took about 10 minutes to put together. Easy Peasy. Definitely lunch and freezer material.

On to the hate.

I hate spinach. I think I ate it while super sandy once, and it's ruined it forever. When I eat salad I cram the bottom of the bowl with spinach (because I will admit it's probably pretty good for you) and then layer it with mescalin lettuce (not to be confused with mescaline), carrots, raisins, cranberries, beets, mango, kiwi, anything to cover the horrible blandness of spinach.

This being said, I was seduce to this recipe on Noshtopia by pine nuts. Sweet, sweet pine nuts. Creamy and flavourful they teamed up with my lifelong love raisins.
  • 1 bunch of fresh spinach (or a .5lb container of baby spinach)
  • 2 tbsp raisins. (Golden would be best, but I used normal)
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted (dry heat on stove)
  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt

Go For it:

Soak the raisins in some hot water for about 10 minutes to plump up the raisins. Drain and set to the side. Prepare spinach by trimming the stems, picking over the bunch and rinsing the spinach well. Don't worry about getting the spinach too much, you'll need the water left on it once it's rinsed in a colander to help it cook later.

In a large skillet, saute the garlic and onion in a medium heat until everything gets slightly golden about 2-3 minutes. Throw in the raisins and toasted pine nuts with the garlic and onion, and mix around for about a minute. After mixture is heated through add spinach to pan. Stir occasionally while spinach wilts over about 5 minutes. If the spinach is not wilting well, or you're using pre-washed spinach, add a tiny amount of water (1-2 tbsp) to help it steam. As a gome ae loving girl, I like my spinach super wilted, but please, adjust to your tastes.

After you've reached your optimum spinach consistency, remove from heat immediately and move to a serving dish. discard any leftover water. Taste and salt as needed (In my case A LOT!)

Serve right away.

Enjoy. I did!
If you're an amazing cook like me, your kitchen will end up looking like this! Aspire folks, aspire.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Capers/Whole Foods on Cambie is 25% off today and tomorrow

I bought all these things for 25% off! I saved about $10.

I tried to get only things I use on a regular basis i.e. nut thins, mayonnaise... But some juices and gluten-free mac & cheese snuck in there too!

Please note - there are no potatoes or candies! I showed much restraint. Potato Chips wouldn't be worth it, for one.. because 25% off for chips isn't really a deal. Wait for the 2 for 1 deals!

Living on cash really restrained me. Sure I wanted 2 bottles of the Naam's Miso Gravy, but I know I would regret buying them when I'm eating brown rice and frozen peas for lunch all week.

Yay money!


Oh yea! They're having this mega sale (25% on ALL Products!!) because they're moving to Cambie and 8th into the new Crossroads building.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Back in Black OR Using Cash to Stay Above Water

I already said I tried the jars and started to faulted when I couldn't be bothered to keep track of each cent. I think I teeter quite obsessively about this money thing (I write a blog about it.. for starters) and when I think it's getting to take too much time up, I halt it in its tracks.

Well, as I repeatedly run out of money before the month is up and I'm apparently having a hell of a time spending less than $100 a month on entertainment (I love Sushi!) I figured it was time to put a definite end to my new fun habit of "borrowing" money from the future months SO here I go!

I'm taking the money out on the 15th of each month, but this month's is prorated because of money I already blew. Principle's pretty easy.

- take out money
- put it in envelope with totals written on it (try to be a smidge neater then me)
- track purchases, change totals to reflect that. Keep receipts in envelope.

This seems good, as I can be a rule breaker (ex. Taking my April/May money out on the 12th, not 15th.) when I just want a cupcake or something but those little overages each month that I brush under the rug will really trip me up over the months. I have each dollar accounted for, and I can't make regular, mega payments on my loans if I falter for another video rental or gin and tonic. It's just not worth it.

While I'm at it, any ideas about cheap dates or food would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Honey Dijon Salmon with Peas and Perogies

So a certain level of laziness and grocery depletion led me to this meal. I had bought the salmon to be healthy and stuff and I was going to make a soy sauce and citrus glaze.. but I surprisingly have no soy sauce (not really surprising since I hate it in general.. but who doesn't have some on hand rotting in the back of the fridge??)I've made honey mustard salmon before, but seeing I was out of that too, I mixed honey and Dijon mustard to make this glaze/sauce. (I really had myself going , thinking I was a genius of flavour when I recalled that there are Honey Dijon chips, sauces, and McNugget dips... foiled again by McDonald's. Yarg!)

A little salmon here, some frozen peas and perogies there, throw in a (slightly old) carrot and you've got a meal.
Honey Dijon Salmon

1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
Salt and pepper
2 salmon fillets, washed, patted dry and checked for bones

Cooked veggies
Cooked Rice/Noodles/Perogies

1. Set oven to 350c.

2. Line oven ready pan with tin foil or parchment paper. Salt and pepper the fish and place fillets on tin foil, skin down. Mix honey and Dijon mustard. Coat Salmon.

3. Cook fish in oven for 10-15 minutes until fish is almost done. It should be light pink on the outside, and leaking white ooze stuff (that's protein!) The interior should still be the original darker flesh colour. You don't want to overcook salmon!

4.Turn oven to broil and cook for 5 minutes. Be sure it doesn't burn... cause it can.. don't ask me how I know...

5. Serve with veggies and starchies (or perogies!).

6. Eat a blood orange!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grocery Tips #1 - Get it together!

Ideally every one of us would get our schedules for the week together, make a healthy and balanced meal plan and cook at home each night. If you can't sense the sarcasm, I'll lay out that this is impossible. Heck, I live alone (w/ roommate) and I frequently buy things I end up throwing out (hello beets! hang on for one more week!) because I'm unexpectedly not home for dinner a few nights, or sometimes I run out of food on Tuesday aka TOO SOON! I can get home from work ready to tango with some tagliatelle or only eek out the energy to make a PB&B. I am one person, organized to a fault, and I can't even get 1 week together.

I am going to make an effort now to plan ahead a little, but to encourage my budding culinary interest i was enjoying being free from all rules and open to any dinner possibilities was also liberating (and expensive.) Nothing says "I"m Free" like potato chips on Monday and stuffed olives on Wednesday. However freeing it is.... the weak, savings ignorant, and hungry Jen at 5:15pm each day wants cookies and she wants them NOW! I can't contend with that. Maybe planning is the way to go?

In the midst of this internal struggle (to be free or not to be) I made the list above in my day planner. Should I be planning my meals on lunch at work, I have a list of all my spices and dried herbs so I don't overbuy. I can't tell you how (pleasantly) surprised I have been to find that I have coriander (ground AND whole) or cream of tartar and not wasted 3-7 dollars. I also have a firm understanding of my vinegar collection, the status of my flour and sugar supplies, not to mention beans, lentils, rices, and chocolate chips. It helps that I have everything in clear mason jars so I can see at a glance where I'm at.

So, planning well in advance or just hours before I take on the market, I can scan recipes with ease and know what I have at home. It will save you overbuying AND if you know what you have you can go the extra step and choose recipes that use up what you have at home, in other words, it also saves you money! On Monday I bought everything for the Waldorf Salad from last week and the chili that has yet to be made (how's that for failed planning) for $15 - the rest I had at home already!

Pat on the back.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Re-post - Lime feat: Cod, Cumin, and Veggie Spaghetti

Found my camera! here's one pic of the dish while cooking.
So, not only did my camera lose batteries, I've lost my cord to connect the pictures I did get to the computer, so sit tight.

I just had to share with you my delicious lunch. Simple and delicious.

I came home after a morning of shopping(eek!) and errands and I was STARVING! I bypassed the mall food court knowing I had spent too much (post following) and I had this fish in the fridge from Friday.

I've been wanting to try using a peeler to peel a whole zucchini and some carrots making long strands and then frying them in some olive oil and eating them like spaghetti. Now that I'm apparently gluten intolerant.. and any "gluten free" pastas make me sick I've pretty much avoided pasta for a long time.

I didn't add any tomato spaghetti sauce, but this simple dish came together great. I used a leftover lime from this week's tacos.

Lime: feat. Cod, Cumin, and Veggie Spaghetti

2 fillets of white fish (I used cod)
3-4 fat, long carrots, trimmed and peeled
1 big or two medium zucchini, trimmed and halved lengthwise if needed
olive oil
1 tsp cumin, divided
1 lime

Rice cooked (if desired)

1. Rinse fish and pat dry. Mix a little oil oil, 1/2 tsp cumin, s&p and coat fish on both sides. Set aside.

2. Use a veggie peeler (or a mandolin if you're incredible and have one) hold zucchini at fattest end and peel into long strips. Repeat with carrots.

3. Heat oil in large frying pan over medium high heat. add carrots and zucchini. Add s&p and remaining cumin (add more if you need/want it) and mix well. Let cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until veggies are cooked and water starts coming out of the zucchini.

4. Make room for fish in pan, add and cook until done. About 2-3 minutes per side.

5. Before you take it off the heat, add lime juice to pan and stir veggies to coat.

6. Enjoy!

Serves two or one really hungry person.

-------Simple, delicious, and pretty healthy. The lime cuts through the oil amazingly. I was pretty impressed with myself.

The peeling didn't go that easily for me, but I have stupid fingers. Any bits that didn't get peeled I chopped up and put in before I added the veggie spaghetti. I suppose also this could be considered more of a fettucini unless you slice the peeled veggies into matchstick width pieces, but who has time for that. They fry nicely as it is.

Good work.

Spring! Waldorf Salad and Banana Nut Muffins

FINALLY finding my camera cord, I have some photos and recipes for you!

I'm really watching my money right now and so with $30 in my pocket for groceries this week I settles on chili and salad for my dinners this week. It's a short week because of the holiday and I have some curry left over from the weekend which is still plentiful.

I wasn't too hungry tonight so I just made the salad to start. The curry is great and it has some veggies included... but sometimes you just need some salad.

Inspired by searching "cabbage" I borrowed from ELS' Waldorf Salad and made my own.

Waldorf Salad
1 granny smith apple, chopped
1 small head of green cabbage, chopped coleslaw style
1 small onion, diced fine (I left this out, most would include it)
2 carrots, grated
1 small green pepper, diced
1/2 c golden raisins
1/2 c chopped walnuts

1/4 cup of mayonnaise ( I ran out and had to use 1/8 cup of sour cream)
1/2 cup of plain yogurt
heaping tablespoon of sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

Mix salad ingredients together until well combined

Stir up dressing ingredients together and tweak as needed.


--- If you ever wanted a make ahead salad which will get way better with time this is the one for you! This baby is picnic ready, so enjoy.


This weekend I had some time on my hands so I decided to save the rotting bananas I had and make them into delicious banana bread. Since gluten and I aren't buddies I know I can't munch on too many at a time, so for freezability, I make any loaves I make (zucchini, banana, etc) as muffins.

Here's a great basic recipe (based on ELS' take on Smitten Kitchen's). I left out the rum since I don't have any liquor in the house (because I'm poor, not because I'm a puritan) and you can tell there's something missing. I would have added chocolate chips had a had more than a half cup on hand.

"Jacked-Up" Banana nut Muffins
Makes one dozen

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 c melted margarine or oil
3/4 c lightly packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 t vanilla
1 T rum or Wild Turkey
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1 t baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 c of flour
1/2 c chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.

Mash up your bananas and then add in the melted margarine and brown sugar.
Mix about with a wooden spoon until well combined and then toss in the egg, rum and the rest of the spices.
Add the baking powder and a pinch of salt and combine.
Add the nuts and incorporate before adding the flour and mixing well
Pour batter into muffin cup and bake for 20-30 minutes depending on your oven or until cake tester comes out clean.
Remove from oven. When cooled slightly, remove from muffin tin and put on rack to cool completely. Or you know... eat.

If you want to make a loaf, just pour it into a loaf pan and cook for 1 hour.

Would you believe my mother and a coworker also made banana muffins this weekend? Maybe something is in the air, but maybe a banana nut muffin is the bridge to spring. It is neither a heavy pumpkin muffin nor a light summery fruit filled delight.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I Hate Tax!

So I signed up for 2 Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs)!

They're a great option when you need some accessible income (but not that accessible.) Interest rates are taking a dive so it's a sad 1.75%, but never fear, I have faith that it will rebound in the future.

There's a $5000/year max on deposits, but as I mentioned to the Vancity Clerk, I don't make enough for that to be an issue.

As usual, I've been agonizing over my budget and an Easter weekend-long 'Til Debt Do Us Part Marathon I've been eeking out tips to help me out. It's difficult to do this because anyone with as much debt and as little income as I have would be told to declare bankruptcy, but because my debt is Student debt (and Good Debt to boot!) I have no choice but paying it off. I'm trying to do that ASAP, but I need to eat, sleep, and play sometimes too, so working out a budget is challenging. I continually feel strained to live within my budget, but I wanted to get out of debt in 5 years MAX. So, short of moving back to my Mom's basement in Ontario (and share with my college-grad brother?) I've got to spend less or make more money.

Spend Less:

I'm already pretty frugal as it is, but I feel that sharing with more than one person or living in the suburbs wouldn't be worth the sacrafice while I'm sacraficing everything else. My monthly budget is $630 including food, entertainment, clothing, gifts, sports, bank fees, cell phone, medical, personal care. Anything that's not rent, savings, or debt really. To ensure I'm on target I am going back to living on cash - attempting to track spending a bit better this time. I feel like I could cut back even further and cut out sports and never eat out, but since I'm already spending 31% of my income on debt repayment, bending over backwards to pay off Good Debt seems harsh.

Make More Money:

I'm looking for a part-time job!

- I got a job working the Provincial Election in May ($260 one time)
- I have an interview to be a ESL tour guide this Tuesday (not super psyched..)
- Applying for a job taking minutes at Board Meetings (~$240/m)
- Pimped myslef on online job search sites!

I figure I have many skills to offer (since I am pretty great) so hopefully something pays off. Even an extra $150 a month will help me pay off my debts a year earlier!

Do you have any ideas I can do for more money?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ten Thousand Pennies

I won $100 today.

I've been filling out surveys for Translink Online Advisory Panel for about a year now and every time you do they enter you into this draw for a 3-zone bus pass (worth $136) or $100. Since I spend about $38 each month on transit, clearly the money is the better choice.

Like most of you, I previously thought these things were never won by anyone, but fictitious people were quoted in the follow up e-mail (Jim S. from Surrey plans to use his winnings to "play poker recklessly.") Not anymore! Well, I will say that when I have the cold hard paper cheque in my hands (in 4 to 6 weeks.)

My initial thought was: Oh good! More money for savings!

You see what I've become?!

My coworkers talked me off the (very dorky) ledge and gave their own suggestions for the money:

Fancy Dinner for 2

My choice would be to save it to use it for something crazy later (150 helium balloons!) so I don't end up deciding to get purple highlights and a one way ticket to Seattle before the money runs out.

My current thinking is one of the following (or two if possible):
- Luxury (and needed) bike tune-up
- Fancy Dinner
- Presents for Dave (Dave's suggestion)
- $100 gift card to Festival Cinemas (convenient because the Park is right near my house)
- save for summer clothes shopping
- use as spending money while in Edmonton/Banff next month

I know it's free money, but I still cringe on wasting it on something ridiculous. I can get some pleasurable mileage out of it without spending it on 10 000 penny candies... there's a thought...

I'm curious to know what you might spend it on? What do you think I should do?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Peanut Butter, Banana = Heaven aka PB&B

While I actually ate some delicious fish and zucchini leftovers, I took these pics a couple weeks ago to show you my #1 fast meal.

With 3 ingredients it's a delightful treat, consistently ready to go. I would prefer, in spirit, to use natural PB but on this night, I was too tired to even wrestle with the cold clumps of my fridge-living Organic Natural PB.

I give you: THE PB&B

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cents Sense #1 - Don't tempt yourself


Seems simple. Some people are habitual shoppers and they will buy without thinking about it. I like to consider myself pretty awesome in the shopping department, I don't frequent the mall as a leisurely Saturday activity each week.

I've been writing this post in my head for a few days and I wanted to suggest something for those who love to browse. Find a safe store. You get the glossy ambiance, but you won't likely spend anything. (A real safe store is one you go into without your wallet!)

For me it's Chapters. I like books, I like the newness of everything, the little cutesy/practical/useless things on the first floor and the ability to read magazines sitting on the floor for an hour. Why I really love Chapters is that I am so enamoured with Vancouver's public library system, I won't ever feel the need to buy anything at Chapters. I borrow from the library semi-weekly. My new fav is the dvd section, you can go online and request movies and once they're available they'll send them to the branch near you, and you can pick them up. (I haven't forgotten you Charlie Wilson's War, I'll get you tomorrow..). So you can see, I can browse my butt off in Chapters consequence free - I've gone in there 100 times and not bought a thing. Safe store.

Maybe you go into a store where you can't afford anything, and just get a thrill of trying things on. Maybe that's too tempting and/or painful, so think of other options. If you're after clothes, check out a friends closet, you can borrow at no cost (hopefully, or get a new friend) or maybe you can swap clothes for something new (to you). Financial websites (geared to women) consistently bring up the "pot-luck/clothing-swap" as a great way to spend an evening. It's not my thing, but it may work for you and few like-sized friends.

Ok, so here's the reality check. I went to the mall today. I went to buy almonds in bulk. Of course that was the only thing Superstore was out off, so I quickly put back all impulse related purchases (I'm talking about you Easter candy) and only bought useful un-fun things (hello garbage bags and toilet cleaner!) that I know I'm out of. Knowing I'll have to go back to the mega grocery store soon to seek out the almonds and may be tempted again.

While I was at the mall I was also looking for some work shoes. I had mentioned that I needed new ones, but you may not know that I've been sporting some major holes in my current pair for quite some time. I have set aside $100 for this expenditure, thinking grown-up, non-Payless shoes would cost more than $20.

Long story short - all the old lady, good for your feet stores had ugly pairs and I found some for $35 at the Gap. I also found a beautiful black skirt which is super light for spring, summer, and even beyond, and some grey Bermuda shorts which are completely work appropriate. I bought all three, going $40 over my shoes budget. I stand by my justifications that both things allow me to wear black shoes all summer (I'm in a constant battle with sandal season) and I won't have to buy any new tops to be comfortable in hotter heat. I am hooked up shirt wise. I can get a lot of use out of both items. Oh well, splurge splurge. To my credit I left the mall as soon as possible to avoid any really stupid spending. I just add this debit onto the April money pile and work it so that I don't go over for the whole month. I think I'm doing great so far - lots of money left!

What's that.... It's only April 4th?... oh.. well good start anyway. Maybe I should take my own advice next time, huh?

Happy half birthday to me!

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Since I'm not contributing to a retirement or pension plan through work, nor do I have any RRSPs yet, I save $300 a month for savings: $200 for emergencies and $100 for other. Emergencies are just that, hopefully I'll never have to use it, but things come up, in a big way, and if you're prepared somewhat financially, it won't rock your budget boat. Other includes everything else, usually fun voluntary things. I don't have any room in my budget for airfare, vacations, Christmas presents etc. so I need to have this extra cash in hand and that's what the other savings account is for.

Right now (after the tax refund comes in) my savings look like this:
Semi-serious: $565.47
Serious: $1630.98

Come October, I'll be making a fair amount less because I'll FINALLY have benefits (get ready teeth!) and so I'll lose my pay in lieu of benefits AND begin contributing 7% of my pay to a pension plan and 1.5 % to a mandatory savings plan my workplace matches. It's a good deal but will be an adjustment to lose the extra money so in the mean time I'm keeping the same monthly budget I will need then as far as discretionary expenses (so it's not a shock when I have $300 less a paycheque) and I'm making my own savings plan. By October I'll have $2700 in serious savings and around $1300 in semi-serious. Pretty darn good if you ask me.

If this hasn't been clear, I think having savings and some money on hand in case of emergencies is extremely important.

If you're in debt, do what you can. I've decided on paying a slightly lower amount each month on my line of credit in order to have more money to put into savings. Otherwise I would be savings free and giving away all my money and in case of emergency I would be stuck and emergencies happen! I did the calculations and by paying off my line of credit in 5 years ($650/m) instead of 4 ($800/m) I will be paying about $800 more in interest but would have also saved $9000 over that period. If you aren't sure how to proceed at least save some money for emergencies, $100-200 per month. You will appreciate it when your car breaks down, your kid needs braces, or you have to fly home for some emergency.

If you're debt free I would aim to be saving up to 30% of your income to savings:

10% to a retirement plan that you never ever touch (except if you're using it for a down payment on a mortgage, where the government give you a break on the withdrawal)
10% to a easily accessible high-interest savings account for emergencies (home repair, job loss)
10% for semi-serious savings in a high-interest savings account (vacation, new computer)

Once you have 3-6 months of your regular income saved for emergencies, you can keep on saving or invest that 10% for retirement or other long-term savings goals. You should keep in mind that your emergency money for 3-6 months will need to be added to as your wages and responsibilities increase, so it would need to be evaluated over time to ensure you have enough piled away.

Like your chequing accounts, all savings accounts are not created equal, so shop around! I started a few Jumpstart High Interest Savings accounts at Vancity (a credit union) a few years ago and they've been great to keeping my money close, but far away enough from my regular account that I didn't dip in without forethought. At 3% at the time, their interest rate was the best deal around, but now they've moved down to 1.75% in light of the economy. Find a deal that suits you. You should be able to save with little or no fees (especially if you do the bulk of your work on the internet), since they make money of your savings, so read the fine print.

Get saving! Not in the mattress or the piggy bank but that's not a bad start.

Do you have any tips for saving money?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ole! Mexican Fish Tacos and Lime Peanut Coleslaw

I Love Leftovers.

I am a devout lunch bringer and lover of a hot lunch. Leftovers fit the bill. Granted I can only eat the same thing 3-4 times before I want to throw it out the window, but it's a great way to maximize your time and minimize your expenditure. I only cook 2-3 days a week and I eat every day, every meal - I promise.

Last night Dave came over for his weekly meal at my house so I put him to work (not that he doesn't do all the cooking the rest of the time). Dave mastered the salad (check out the knife skills on the cabbage!) and fixings and I was focused on my one task - breading.

I never experienced a fish taco until a few weeks ago at a infrequent visit to Cactus Club and that fish taco there was fantastic. I wanted to try making it for myself. I know there are many variations of this delicious meal feature unbreaded fish, but I wanted to take inspiration from kickpleat over at Everybody Likes Sandwiches (surprise, surprise) and whip up a batch with a nice spicy panko/cornmeal crust. If nothing else, this Mexican delight and a nice Mexican beer could potentially entice spring to show it's face on a more permanent basis sometime soon.

fish tacos with garlic-cumin yogurt sauce (adapted from ELS)

4 white fish filets (I used cod)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c flour
1/2 c cornmeal
1/2 c panko breadcrumbs
1 t cayenne pepper
1 t chili powder
1/2 t salt
1 T oil

1 small container of fat free plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 T cumin

flour or corn tortillas ( I tried corn to avoid the hated gluten, but it was not a good result)

A selection of fixings - cabbage or lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, jalapenos are a good start.

1. Cut the fish into manageable strips. Mix the cornmeal, breadcrumbs, cayenne pepper, chili powder and salt together. Set up a breading station as pictured above. Dip fish into flour, then egg and then dredge in the cornmeal mixture.

2. Heat oil over medium high heat in a large pan and when hot, add the breaded fish. Turn fish over when golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from pan.

3. Prepare sauce by mixing the crushed garlic, yogurt and cumin together.

4. Heat tortillas (in microwave, over a gas flame, or in a pan) until softened and slightly charred. Assemble tacos with the fish and fixings of your choice and drizzle with the garlic sauce & squeeze lime juice over top.

Makes 8 tacos, 2 per person
This was great! The spices worked out really well for the fish and although Dave and I agreed that the corn tortillas killed it, it was overall a success. Worked out well for lunch today too, if not a little messy.

For a delicious side salad I pulled out this great recipe from 101Cookbooks. I made some changes so this is the altered recipe below. I did goof when doing this from memory and made the dressing 1/2 cup oil and 1/4 cup lime juice, not as written below - it turned out fine, but was definitely not the intent of the original author. I can only imagine that her version would have that kick we were looking for in the salad. That being said, the peanuts and lime were a dream combo.

Lime & Peanut Coleslaw Recipe

1 1/2 cups unsalted raw peanuts
1 of a small green cabbage, cored and sliced thin and short (3-4 inches long max)
3 plum tomatoes diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (optional)
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon + fine-grain sea salt

In a skillet or oven (350F) roast the peanuts for 5 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice along the way, until golden and toasted.

Combine the cabbage, tomatoes, jalapeno (opt), and cilantro in a bowl.

In a separate bowl combine the lime juice, olive oil, salt. Add to the cabbage mixture and gently stir to combine. Just before serving fold in the peanuts (add them too earl and they lose some of their crunch). Taste and adjust the flavor with more salt if needed.

Serves 6 as a side.----- Even though I goofed on the dressing this turned out great, and it was awesome in lunch today. The great thing about cabbage and oil and acid dressings like this is that they can keep extraordinary well compared to a dressed romaine or red leaf lettuce salad which would wilt horribly over the same time period. I wanted to mention also that Dave had suggested that we could have just put the salad on the tacos as fixings rather than bothering with anything else. What a delicious suggestion.

Great dinner altogether, corn tortillas notwithstanding.
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