Luxury on the Cheap
What are the three little words guaranteed to make a woman get squishy and happy?  

You know, that phrase we never get tired of hearing and always makes us feel good?

"I'll cook dinner."

Hhhooooooooooo, baby!

I don't care if we're having beans - if I don't have to cook 'em, it tastes like luxury to me.  Sadly, that doesn't happen nearly enough.  Not only are there plenty of single moms out here on the hustle, but even among couples, women still do the lion's share of meal production, housework, and child care.

We became SuperWomen, but most men didn't keep up. 

So!  If you like coming home to dinner already done, the crockpot* is your best friend!

Hell, forget luxury.  Getting home to an already-cooked-dinner after a long day of work and errands and being everything to everybody is a damn lifesaver!

If you can get it together just enough to throw some basic ingredients in the crockpot in the morning (and this is important, remember to turn it ON!  Shut up, don't judge me!) by the time you get home in the evening.... dinner is done!  That 15 minute investment in the morning pays off with 45 extra minutes in the evening NOT spent chopping, measuring, cooking, and cleaning.

Here are a couple of my go-to recipes -- thrifty, easy, nutritious, and yummy. 

Crockpot Vegetarian Chilli
You will need:  Beans - 2 cans, or about 3 cups pre-soaked (black, red, pinto, or whatever you like)
Tomatoes - 2 small cans, or 1 big can, or about 4-6 cups fresh cut up
Onion - 1 small chopped onion, or a teaspoon or so of onion powder
Chili Seasoning - 2 Tablespoons chili powder, 2 Tablespoons cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Optional - jalapeno peppers to taste (I always have the sliced, pickled peppers handy, and I like to throw in several slices along with a little of the juice.  Fresh peppers are MUCH HOTTER!)

Put all ingredients into the pot and give it a good stir.  Turn on LOW, put on the lid, and forget about it til you get home!  Eat over cornbread, rice, or tortilla chips with a handful of shredded cheese on top.  Yum!

Spicy Smothered Chicken - Thanks to Laurie Hardie at Coffee With the Coaches

- 2 or 3 chicken breasts, or 4 to 6 thighs
Cream of Mushroom Soup - 1 can
Water - 1 can
Taco Seasoning - 1 Tablespoon chili powder, 1 Tablespoon cumin, 1 teaspoon each salt, pepper, cayenne, onion
Garlic - 1 clove, or to taste
Give everything a good stir, making sure chicken pieces are covered by the soup and water mixture.  Turn on low, and go to work.  This is good over rice and with a salad.  Any leftovers (not likely!) make a great base for soup. 

*If you don't have a crockpot, don't sweat it.  These recipes will still work in the oven in a good heavy pan on very low heat.  Or, you can always post a request on Freecycle, check the year-end clearance sales, or try second-hand.  I usually always see crockpots at the Goodwill, often still in the box.  Put the word out that you're looking for one, and you may be surprised at what turns up!

The workday is over; the meal is done - now, make the kids wash dishes.  Bliss!
Happy Christmas, everyone!  And to all a good night.

What is luxury?  The best of something?  Opulence?  Fancy designer doo-dads?  Expensive clothes?  How can someone experience luxury if it's a struggle just to make ends meet?

Well, I may not know how to score a fabulous vacation on a private jet, but there are some "little luxuries" everyone can enjoy - but not everyone knows about.

And sometimes, especially when we're stuggling, those little luxuries can mean the difference between getting through the day ok and totally losing your mind!

One thing that we seem to depend on every day is caffeine.  "Give us this day, our daily coffee..."  Right?  In Seattle, there are more Starbucks stores than churches!  Caffeine has been shown to lessen the effects of depression -- even the SCENT of coffee has been shown to deliver the same results.  Here in the rainy Pacific Northwest, it's hard not to be an addict.

But instead of spending 4 dollars or more on the daily dose - there are other ways to have a luxurious, decadent coffee drink - for pennies, instead of big bucks.

Here's one I like. 

Minty, Creamy Coffee

You will need:  1/3 cup powdered milk (buy in bulk if possible)
1/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup instant coffee (Starbucks Via or generic - I can't tell the difference)
2 tsp powdered cocoa
5 crushed peppermints (or a candycane)

Combine the ingredients - then use 2-3 teaspoons per cup of boiling water for a fancy flavored coffee!  Shazam!  I find the mint mitigates the stinky coffee breath.

Another drink that tastes almost sinfully good to me is flavored English tea.  This is also incredibly easy to make, which makes it even better in my book.

You will need:  plain tea bags, vanilla flavored soy mik, honey.

All of these ingredients can be found at the dollar store.  I know, I was there yesterday!

Take standard black tea bags -- generic, preferably - and brew normally.  Fill your cup 3/4 full with hot tea, 1/4 with vanilla soy milk (or plain, or milk, or cream - whatever you have) and add a generous squirt of honey.  Stir and enjoy!

My kids tell me this tastes "very friendly in the mornings."  I agree.  You can use this same process to make a decadent chai tea (it comes in tea bags) for a nice change of pace.

Even though we know the best things in life are free, it sure is nice to share a little luxury from time to time, especially with a good friend.

Be sweet.