New Site

I know I haven’t written in a while, but I now have a new site. Www.SwagNotSwine.com please follow me.

My goal with this segment is to not only continue with a pork free diet, but a more healthy diet overall. No more sugary drinks and snacks, and avoiding all other high calorie and fat intake, and depending on healthier alternatives. Not only will I be documenting my personal progress, but sharing positive advice, support and information for all of you to also begin or continue a healthy, positive lifestyle.

Change is good and it’s good to change. Enjoy!

-Samantha Jonas-Rongo

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4th of July Shooters

Celebrate this 4th of July with this flight of three tasty red, white and blue shooters, or as some call them, shots!

America.  Land of the free, because of the brave.  We are a country that certainly has our issues, but we always manage to bond together and work through them.  Always united.  All of our blemishes and accomplishments are what make us the great country that we are.  Always growing, always changing.

The fourth of July is less than a week away! Oh how that crept up on me.  These three shots are not only festive, but also taste delicious!  They take tequila, vodka, and silver rum to a whole new level.  The best part about them is that they can also be made into drinks too if shooters aren’t your style.

The Red

1oz Vodka

.5oz DeKuyper Watermelon Pucker

1oz Cranberry Juice

Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice.  Shake and strain into a large shot glass. This shot tastes like a gummy bear!

The White

1oz coconut Rum (I prefer Malibu but if not available, Bacardi Coconut)

.5oz Lime juice

1oz Sprite

Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice.  Shake and strain into a large shot glass. This shot is super refreshing

The Blue

1oz Patron or Jose Cuervo Silver Tequila ……Silver, not Gold!!!

.5oz Lime juice

.25 (literally a splash) of Simple Syrup …..Not Maple, Simple Syrup. Its clear and specifically for drinks.

.5oz DeKuyper Blue Curacao

Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Salt the rim of shooter glass. Shake mixture and strain into salted glass. This shot is probably the strongest of them all but the salt, lime and simple syrup help take the edge off the tequila.

Enjoy and remember, Drink Responsibly!

Week 5 of Budget 101

Part 5: Save on the Fun Things

Finally, a topic that we actually WANT to think about.  Or maybe that’s just me! 🙂 Saving on the all the things we MUST spend money on, is in all actuality as important as tedious, to say the least.

(NOTE: Before we go any further, if you are new to Through The Eyes Of I, or missed out on the last four weeks, you might want to start at Week 1: Stop Spending before starting this week’s assignment!)
 

If we’re being perfectly honest, which of these two scenarios would make you do the happy dance:

a.) You were able to negotiate a .3 percentage point drop in your mortgage rate

b.) You found the cutest pair of designer shoes that ever existed on clearance for 90% off AND you had an additional 10% off coupon AND the only pair left was in your size.  It was like the heavens opened up and the shoe gods named you the Chosen One.

(Hint: If you picked (b), this might be the wrong guide to savings for you.)

But there is a very important distinction between (a) and (b).  The first scenario is an actual savings–additional money in your pocket that would otherwise be gone.  The second scenario, while a “good deal,” is NOT really saving you any money.  Those perfect shoes will still cost you something, even if it is far less than the original price.

You are spending, not saving.

Last week we methodically tackled saving on all those pesky things we have to spend money on each month–food, utilities, & gas–whether we want to or not.  Hopefully once you started looking, you found that there were plenty of tweaks you could make to squeeze the most out of your budget.

This week we are going to focus on saving money on the things we want to buy, but don’t necessarily need to buy.

Remember the exercise from Week One? Well let’s face it, although the most obvious answer to saving money in this category is simply to stop spending money on things we don’t need, it’s probably not a very realistic option for most people, including myself.

So what’s a girl (or guy) to do?  As hard as it may be (especially for those of us who want instant gratification), there is a very simple way to save on everything you buy:

Wait for the best price.

Everything goes on sale eventually, it is just a matter of being patient. It is such a simple concept, and yet so hard to follow sometimes for many people.

This week’s assignment:

  •  Stop shopping mindlessly.

If this one doesn’t apply to you, feel free to skip to #2, but for some of us (and WE know who WE are), shopping is more than just a means to an end, it is how we fill our time. Regardless of how much we try to convince ourselves that we’re “just looking,” or “window shopping,” eventually the temptation becomes too great, and we buy things we not only don’t need, we end up with things we don’t even really want.  No matter how good the sale, if we buy something we don’t need OR want, it isn’t a good deal, and we are NOT saving money!  Save your pennies for the things you want, and find another way to fill your day! We do not want make any more poor decisions.

  •  Figure out what you really want

Make a list of all the things you want to buy.  Clothes, shoes, new TV, car, blender, professional family portraits, house, new couch, etc. Next to each item, indicate how soon you want/need it, (i.e. “sometime in the next 5 years,” “for my cousin’s wedding next week,” “this October.”), as well as how much you want to spend.  The goal is to aim low, not high, giving yourself a goal to shoot for and a reason NOT to spend more than you have to.  Try to limit your list to no more than 10 items at a time.  If something doesn’t make your top 9, then you probably don’t want it that badly!  Save your money for the things you truly want.

  •  Be on the lookout for good deals!

This is more of an ongoing assignment.  Wish list in hand, you are now free to search for bargains.  But BE CAREFUL.  There are always going to be more bargains available than you can afford to spend.  Stick to the list and to the things you really want.  Diligence truly does pay off, and if you continue looking, you will almost always find what you want at a price you like.  The internet and the use of apps are almost an endless source of bargains, but here are some of my favorite places to look for deals:

Amazon Gold Box –I have found some of my best deals this way. There are Deals of the Day and Lightning Deals which often feature products for 75% or more off the regular retail price.  Even better, you can sign up for Amazon Mom (for free!) and get FREE 2 day shipping on almost everything including 20% off diaper subscriptions.

Amazon is also one of my favorite places to find great deals. You can find almost anything, and if you sign up for Amazon Prime, you get access to thousands of movies, and music for free and the ability to enjoy FREE 2 day shipping.

Ebates– If you do any online shopping at all, using Ebates to get cash back on all your purchases is simply a no-brainer. However, Ebates also frequently features “Daily Double” specials that can mean huge discounts on a wide variety of items.  When you Sign up you will automatically receive their daily email, which is a great way to keep track of the specials!

  • Daily Deal Sites – More & more of these deal sites seem to pop up every day, but my favorites thus far are Beyond The RackGroupon, and Zulily.
Target Online Daily Deals– who doesn’t love Target?  Their daily deals are often nothing short of amazing AND shipping is free!
Craigslist– I have found some amazing deals on Craigslist, but usually only after a LOT of searching. I have the most success when I am looking for something specific, and then search daily until I find it. Don’t be afraid to negotiate either, even if the price is low. Unless it’s free, it can always go lower!

*   *   *

 See, wasn’t this week a lot more fun?  (That’s because shopping under the guise of “saving money” is always more fun than cracking down!)  Stay tuned for another week’s saving challenge next Sunday, and don’t forget to let me know how you’re doing!

Week 4 of Budget 101

PART 4: SAVE ON THE NECESSARY THINGS

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that getting your financial life in order is hard work!  I wish I could say it will be a cakewalk from now on, but alas, there is still much to be done.  Don’t let that discourage you or make you give up.  If you are feeling overwhelmed (a perfectly normal reaction), then just stop, take a deep breath, and give yourself a break.  Wait a week or two to pick up where you started.  This series will be here for you when you’re ready.  I promise you CAN do this, and it’s okay if it takes you longer than 8 weeks to get there.
(NOTE: If you are new to “Through The Eyes Of I” or missed out last week, you might want to start at Week 1 of Budget 101 before starting this week’s assignment!)
Last week we focused lowering our major expenses–housing, transportation, & insurance.   Hopefully you were able to find a few ways to save, and if so, YAHOO!    If not, take heart, there are plenty of other areas left to save.
This week we are going to focus on lowering your expenses for the necessities in your budget.  Do you remember the exercise from week 1, where we focused on separating our wants from our needs?  Well, this is where that comes into play. There are certain things we simply can’t live without– groceries, utilities, gas –but we most likely CAN pay less for them.

For those of you who don’t want to bother with coupons, there are still many ways to reduce your grocery bills simply by changing the way you shop. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. ANY savings is better than none!

Unless you have already been trying to cut your expenses in this area, your utility bills should be one place you can find lots of opportunities for savings!  Small tweaks can make a BIG difference in your final bill, and if you are anything like me, you probably have a whole pile of utility bills to deals with each month–everything from water to electricity, cable to phones,  the list goes on and on, and seems to get longer all the time.

Gas is a hard expense to cut significantly. We obviously have no control over gas prices, and we usually need to travel where we need to go. But there are a few things we can do to make sure we are making the most of our gas mileage, and again, small tweaks can make a big difference over time.

This week’s assignment will be pretty straightforward.  We’re going to methodically go through those things we MUST spend money on, whether we want to or not, and then look for ways to cut those expenses.  A little here, and a little there really does add up.

This week’s assignment:

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1. Develop a strategy for saving on your groceries

If you are already saving money with coupons, great!  Look for ways to stretch those savings even more, perhaps by committing to a few meatless meals a week or by getting more proficient at “shopping” and cooking from your own stockpile. If you are not using coupons and don’t want to, there are still a lot of ways to reduce that grocery bill by planning your meals & shopping list around what’s on sale, and stocking up when you find things at a great price.

2.  Reduce Your Utilities

Make a list of all the utilities you pay each month, and make an active commitment to reduce each one. For instance, you could commit to reducing your electric bill by setting your A/C a few degrees lower and by turning off the lights during the day (and keeping them off.)  You could decide to eliminate your landline in favor of cell phones, downgrade your cable plan, or switch internet providers.  Remember, every little bit helps, but whatever you decide to do, WRITE IT DOWN!  Then do it!

3.  Commit to Saving Money on Gas

Once again, be specific.  Write down at least 5 things you can start doing right away to help lower that expense every month, whether it be planning your errands better to make them more efficient, carpooling, walking when possible, or even checking to make sure your tires are properly inflated. That’s all there is for this week.  That wasn’t so bad was it?  Compared to all the big stuff, it was a walk in the park, and maybe it was even a little fun!  It is amazing how much money we literally throw away each month, just because we don’t pay attention to the details in all these different areas.  It really does add up.

 
Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and don’t forget to let me know how you’re doing!

Food Pyramid Turned My Pyramid Turned My Plate

Most of us have seen the iconic USDA Food Guide Pyramid at some point. It was first introduced in 1992, was remade in 2005 as My Pyramid, and in 2011 was changed to My Plate. All of these eating guides incorporate the different food groups and try to give us an understanding of how to eat a healthy diet. But have you ever wondered if they are correct? Who wrote them?

What research are they based on? Does profit or the food industry create a bias in these models? Why have they changed? Do you really need to eat 11 servings of grains in a day? Is there really a one size fits all diet? This article will help you understand the answers to all of these questions.

Food Pyramid

THE FOOD GUIDE PYRAMID

The original Food Pyramid was created in 1992 by the United States Department of Agriculture. It became the uncontested model for a “healthy diet” in schools, doctor’s offices, on food labels, and in the media. For more than 20 years, Americans tried to follow this high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet recommended by the Food Pyramid. The results are in, and sadly Americans are sicker and more over weight than ever before in our nation’s history. So what went wrong?

As the Food Pyramid held the power to greatly influence the multibillion dollar food industry, was the original Food Pyramid solely based on nutritional science, or was it was influenced by commercial interests? As more research has been done, it has become clear that a diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat is not optimal for disease prevention. (1)

A diet high in pasteurized dairy and carbohydrates causes inflammation and an overly acidic body pH, which is an underlying factor in almost every chronic disease. (2) It is also clear that many people are allergic to or have a difficult time digesting dairy and grains.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid has six levels. Foods from the six major food groups are shown in the levels of the Pyramid. The food groups are:

  • grains;
  • vegetables;
  • fruits;
  • milk and dairy products;
  • meat, fish, beans and nuts;
  • oils and fats.

File:MyPyramidFood.svg

MY PYRAMID

The 2005 My Pyramid model, which was like the original one turned on its side, was heavily criticized from the beginning as being too confusing and overly vague. The one good thing about this model was that it incorporated exercise as one of the “steps to a healthier you.” However, it still placed grains as the largest source of calories and did not incorporate our need for healthy fats.

With the massive increase in processed foods, this model did not help Americans navigate all of these choices. Many products advertised the number of “whole grains” it contained while being full of refined sugar, food additives, trans fat, genetically modified corn and soy, preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings, and other unhealthy ingredients. (3) A great example of this is breakfast cereals. The idea that Lucky Charms, Coco Puffs or Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a good and healthy breakfast choice—just because it contains whole grains—shows how far off track we’ve gone.

MyPyramid was a visual illustration of suggested healthy eating habits and physical activity. Like its predecessor, the Food Guide Pyramid, MyPyramid combined the government’s dietary guidelines and recommended allowances into six food groups. But instead of illustrating the number of servings based on a one-size-fits-all 2,000 calorie intake, the MyPyramid symbol itself showed six vertical color bands, each representing varying proportions of the pyramid. These colors represented the food groups as follows.

  • Orange for grains
  • Green for vegetables
  • Red for fruits
  • Yellow for oils
  • Blue for milk
  • Purple for meat and beans
  • Fruit Group should provide 4 daily servings, or 2 cups.
  • Vegetable Group should provide 5 servings, or 2.5 cups.
  • Grain Group should provide 6 ounce-equivalents (1 ounce-equivalent means 1 serving), half of which should be whole grain..
  • Meat and Beans Group should provide 5.5 ounce-equivalents or servings.
  • Milk Group should provide 3 cups/servings.
  • Oils should provide 24g or 6 teaspoons.
  • Discretionary Calories: The remaining amount of calories in each calorie level after nutrient-dense foods have been chosen. Up to 267 calories could be consumed in solid fats or added sugars if the other requirements were been met

MyPlate Food Pyramid Replacement

MY PLATE

In 2011, the new “My Plate” was introduced. This is a significant improvement from its predecessors as it is much easier to visualize what it actually means on your plate. My Plate really makes meal planning easier. Just by looking at the icon, you know right away that vegetables and fruits should take up half the plate (with the veggie portion being a bit bigger), and grains and protein foods should take up the other half (with more grains on this side). And with a side helping of dairy, you’re reminded to include milk or another dairy food (like cheese or yogurt) in your daily meal plan.

Because My Plate is a divided plate, no one food group overpowers the others. That’s because dietary guidelines encourage eating a variety of foods and discourage “super-sized” portions which can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Although the food guide icon has changed, the USDA’s message about eating well has stayed the same. Everyone still needs to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with lean meats or other forms of protein and low-fat dairy products.

Oils provide important nutrients and are recommended in small amounts but aren’t included on the My Plate icon. Choose oils over solid fats, but limit the amount you eat.

Exercise is also no longer included in the icon, but it’s still an important component of a healthy lifestyle. Everyone should and will benefit from exercise. Starting at 2 years old, kids need at least 60 minutes of moderate to physical activity each day.

Criticisms are that it still does not help us navigate what kinds of foods should be in each category. Before the industrialization of our food supply, these categories were very simple. Now we are bombarded with thousands of choices and new “food products” on the shelves of the supermarket every week.

So what should we eat!? The question, “what is a healthy diet?” seems to still remain once we take a deeper look at the shortcomings of these food models.

Week 2 of Budget 101

PART TWO: MAKE A BUDGET

It’s been a week.  How’s that no-spending thing going? Well, here’s the good news:  You can start spending money again.  Of course the bad news is that after today’s assignment, you might not want to. Hopefully last week’s exercise started you thinking about the reasons WHY you’re spending and also got you to start making a serious distinction between the things you WANT and the things you NEED.

(NOTE: If you are new to “Through The Eyes Of I” or missed out last week, you might want to start at Budget 101 Part 1: STOP SPENDING before starting this week’s assignment!)

Before we go any further, I want to make a quick but important distinction that just because something is a “WANT” instead of a “NEED” doesn’t make it wrong or bad. It’s okay to want a pretty comfortable house with all the amenities, vacations or cute shoes. What’s not okay is to want all those things at the expense of your financial well-being,  your marriage, relationships, your children or anything else that we know is more important than stuff. It’s okay to WANT, but not to GET if you are not at a stable financial stance to do so. ***Don’t go on vacation, then come back and not pay your electric and gas bills. Don’t go out shopping with your friends and then go and tell your family you’re struggling*** If you are not struggling with your spending or find that you have plenty of money leftover for your savings, life & retirement accounts at the end of the month, have no trouble paying all your bills on time, know exactly where all your money is going, have great credit and don’t stress out over unforeseen expenses, then you probably don’t need to be reading this series.  In fact, you probably could write it better than me because you are obviously doing something right. I have multiple bills including a retirement and savings account, life, funeral and health insurances that I pay towards monthly, and I don’t have school or credit debt so I say I am pretty financially stable BUT…… most of us, including I struggle with money or budgeting, at least in some area. Believe me when I tell you there is plenty of room for improvement. This week’s assignment is going to require a little more effort.   The hard truth is that no one can fix your budget for you.  There are no magic solutions or ten-minute fixes that will have permanent results.  Improving your financial outlook will require change, and change is HARD.  Do it anyway.

As I tell my stepson, never neglect to do something just because it is hard, because it is the things you work hardest for that will reward you the most. Don’t let fear stop you either. It can be very scary to open up the Pandora’s box otherwise known as your finances, especially if you’ve been turning a blind eye.  In some ways, ignorance is bliss.  But if you’re still reading up to this point, you probably know, deep down, that this is something you need to do.  Take a deep breath, muster up your courage, and just do it.  You’ll be better for it. And now that the pep talk is over, it is time to get down to business:

HERE IS THIS WEEK’S ASSIGNMENT:

                      CLICK TO DOWNLOAD MY PERSONAL BUDGET WORKSHEET

1. Assess your income and fixed expenses

Print out the nifty budget worksheet above, then grab your bank statements, your bills, your check register, & any other financial information you can think of.  A calculator might come in handy too.  Then grab a glass of wine, sit down (with your spouse if your married), and start crunching the numbers.  Use worksheet number one to list all your sources of income, as well as all those key fixed payments you MUST make each month

Use worksheet #2 to add up all the subtotals of your fixed expense categories, then subtract that total from your income.  The remaining number is what you really have to work on creating a budget for.
In the coming weeks, we will work on finding ways to lower both your fixed AND variable expenses, but we need a place to start from, and this is it.

2.  Create a budget for your variable expenses

Use a pencil to fill in each category with what you are currently paying each month, then add up your subtotals and see how it compares to the number you are shooting for.  Then go back and lower different categories as necessary.  Obviously some things, like your water and electric, won’t be adjustable, but other things can probably be cut significantly.   Include SOMETHING in your savings budget, even if it is just a small amount.  If you have credit card payments, include those in your household expenses as well.

3. Take some time to self-reflect

This step may be the hardest, but it is also the most important.  Complete worksheet #4 and make some concrete decisions and goals based on what you’ve discovered through this budgeting exercise.

Maybe you’ve realized it is time to cut up your credit cards, or, at the very least, put them on ice. (Fill a bowl with water, put your credit cards in, and freeze.  If nothing else, it will slow you down!)  Maybe you’re ready to start packing a lunch instead of going out or to give up cable.  What you spend your money on is a very personal decision that only you can determine for yourself (or with your spouse.)

4. Track your spending

The last page of the PDF packet is an expense tracker.  Print out as many as you need, and use it to keep track of everything you spend.  At the end of each day, and then again at the end of each week, go over your expenses to make sure you are staying on track.  The more frequently you “check in,” the less likely you will be to let your spending get out of control.  Little things add up quickly!

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Whew, what a week!  I know this probably seems like a lot, but please don’t give up on me!  I promise it will be worth it in the end, and your bank account will thank you.  Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and remember, I want to hear from you!  How did your first week of the challenge go?  What did you learn about yourself or your budget?
Keep in mind, once again, that I am not a financial expert.  You are welcome to use these worksheets to help you–they are what make sense to me–but there are lots of other budgeting books, worksheets, & software available that might work for you better

Home Made Ice Cream Cake

Can’t decide between cake or ice cream, or are in the mood for both? Have both!

Ice cream cakes are some of the most satisfying, and easy desserts to put together. You can even make them with your children to make it an even more special treat, and fun activity.

This version made out of ice cream sandwiches takes the cake, literally, because the layers are almost pre-made for you. Simple and pretty when cut and served, it will be love at your first creamy bite.

This recipe is so easy, no directions are needed, its all self explanatory. And depending on your personal preference of toppings, you can add however much you would like.

This recipe is basic and includes ice cream sandwiches, whip topping (not whip cream, because it’s too creamy), peanuts, chocolate syrup and caramel. Get creative and go funky, add crushed Oreos, strawberry syrup, candy, etc….the options are endless.

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake Recipe Real Simple

 

Mmmmmm! Enjoy!

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

About Budget 101

My goal for this series is to guide you through a series of assignments intended to put you on a sounder financial footing.  Basically it is eight weeks to a better budget. It is my personal guide, a beginners budget 101. Each week we will tackle one specific area for us to work on, and then complete assignments related to that segment of our financial life. Keep in mind, just as anything you need to do in life, following this series will take some effort & commitment on your part. There are many ways to budget your financial life, and this is the blood, sweat, & tears edition. Okay, well maybe no blood 🙂 Every Sunday will mark a new week towards a better budget. Come join me and save! Click on Budget 101 in the menu scale, and use the drop down to view the series by week.

Disclaimers: 

  • I am not a financial expert or certified financial planner.  I have degrees in business administration, criminal and business law, have studied accounting, and am a certified tax preparer and tutor.  I have no credentials whatsoever beyond my own experience to qualify me for teaching anyone about saving money.  There are plenty of money experts out there who could probably explain this stuff far better than me, and some I will even refer you to.  My only goal here is to try to break down the scary world of budgets and saving into manageable bites.  Yes, this is the baby steps guide to saving. This is my personal guide, and it has worked for me.

Week 1 of Budget 101

Welcome to My Beginner’s Guide to Saving!

My goal for this series is to guide you through a series of assignments intended to put you on sounder financial footing.  Basically it is eight weeks to a better budget. Being that you are reading this, you are starting a lifestyle to a better you, and  better financial situation.

Part One: Stop Spending!!!

Saving is not easy. We live in a crazy consumer driven “have to have it” society, where the latest electronics, cars, fashions and cars are constantly being promoted; and we are made to feel like we’re missing out if we don’t have the latest or the best.  The sheer quantity of stuff available to purchase at any given time is pretty much a bottomless pit.  There is always more, more more! So we want and spend more, more, more!

So what’s a girl (or boy) to do?

Well, it’s pretty simple really:  STOP. BUYING. STUFF.

At least in theory it is simple…….

In practice, it is sooooo much harder……

Our reasons for spending money on stuff we don’t need are plentiful and varied.  It makes us feel good.  We want to look better.  We want our house to be pretty.  We want what everyone else has.  It’s fun.  We’re bored.  We’re lonely.  We want people to like us better.  We want to be “ahead of the curve.” We’re “tech junkies”.  We can’t pass up a “good deal.” We think we might need it someday.  The sales pitch worked.  We’re stressed.  We’re trying to fill a void.  It was on sale.  We’re addicted to Starbucks, tobacco, scrapbooking, shoes, video games, books, fun, etc.

Sound familiar?

The truth is that whatever the reason, much of what we spend our money on is unnecessary, a want rather than a need.  I need to eat, but I want to drink my Keurig K-Cups coffee every day. I need to wear shoes, but I want to have dozens of pairs in every color and style imaginable. I want to get my hair done, but I have student loans and bills I need to pay. I want to take dance classes, but I need to pay for health insurance every month (why is insurance so much anyways?…347.00 a month!)  😦  So much for AFFORDABLE in Affordable Care Act.

It is so very important to realize the distinction between what we think we need and what we actually need. But its not an issue of wants Vs. needs, but wants Vs. Priorities.

It is the first critical step on the path to savings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should never spend money on anything, and live an austere and boring life, void of pretty things, entertainment or yummy coffee drinks.

But for the sake of this series, we are going to start by curbing all spending so that down the road we can figure out how to get those things we want in a way that fits our budget.

Which brings me to this week’s assignment:

1.  Stop spending!

Try to go these next seven days without spending money on anything except what is absolutely necessary, as in matter-of-survival necessary.  No clothes, no candy, no quick stops at McDonalds, no craft supplies, no nothing.  Don’t worry, it’s only a week.  You won’t die.  I promise. It is a great way to get your budget back on track in a hurry!

2.  Make a list of wants and needs

Spend your time reflecting on all the things you spend money on in a months time, and divide those things into a “needs” list (i.e.  I need to pay rent, pay utility bills, pay health and life insurance bills, buy food, make car and insurance payment, etc.) and a “wants” list (cable, , Starbucks, etc.)

  •  Don’t just make a mental list.  Sit down and physically write down every single thing you can think of that you spend money on, from the mundane to the major.

3. Get inspired

Read a few financial articles to get yourself motivated.  It will give you something to do while you’re trying not to spend money.

4.  Find new (free) ways to fill your time

Think long and hard about the reasons you spend money frivelously.  If you are using shopping as a way to fill a void in your life then you need to seriously explore other hobbies that don’t cost anything.  Go to the library and check out some new books, make it your mission to explore every park in a 20 mile radius, set a goal of organizing every closet and cupboard in your house by the end of the summer, or better yet, have a yard sale and make some money off the things that you already have that you don’t need.

I think the thing that surprised me the most when I stopped spending money out of boredom was how much more creative I became.  The world is full of free activities. You just have to look a little harder.

And that’s it for this week!  Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and remember, I want to hear from you!  If you’ve decided to take this 8 week challenge, or if you have any ideas for fun free activities you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.  Saving money is so much more fun when you have someone to share it with.
Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Simple, Healthy Baked Avocado and Egg

Simple, Healthy Baked Avocado and Egg

Avocado Baked Eggs | thetwobiteclub.com

Avocado Baked Eggs are made by filling creamy avocados with eggs and then baking and seasoning them in the oven until the yolk is set to your liking. This dish really couldn’t be any easier to pull together.  It’s fresh, simple, smooth and tasty.  Avocado, egg, seasoning, bake… done!

You can decide to add a couple of add-in ingredients, which you totally don’t have to do, but bacon and cheese seems like it would be amazing!

You could go Italian and do tomatoes and basil, go Greek and do feta and oregano.  Or how about tex mex!  Salsa avocado baked eggs, anyone? Either way, these avocado baked eggs are a perfectly decadent, filling, and gorgeous breakfast!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 avocado, or more.
  • 2 eggs per avocado. (I recommend medium or large eggs)
  • Adobo or salt and pepper
  • optional add-ins* (cheese, bacon, tomatoes, green onions, salsa, fresh herbs, etc.)
    • If using bacon, cook and set aside.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Slice your avocado in half lengthwise to the pit.  Twist the two sides in opposite directions and gently pull apart.

  • Remove the pit. Scoop out a little of the avocado from the center to make a little additional space for the egg.

  • Season the avocado with Adobo. If Adobo is unavailable, salt and pepper will do perfectly fine.

FOR EXTRA JAZZ: Sprinkle a small bit of your choice of toppings into the hole for the egg, then gently crack the egg into the avocado.

  • Crack your egg inside the avocado. If you like, place avocado in shallow dish that you will be baking them in ahead of time in case the egg spills out. Extra large eggs tend to always spill over.

20140814_104710

  • Top with the remaining toppings of your choice and season again with Adobo or salt and pepper.
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, depending on how you like your yolk set.  Check after 15 minutes and then continue cooking to your liking.

I’m all about a little bit of texture, and, to be honest, when you eat these on their own it’s soft even more due to the avocado and egg.  Spread that avocado and egg on a nice slice of toasted bread and you’ve got the much needed texture.

Avocado Baked Eggs ~ Creamy avocado baked with eggs, salami, and white cheddar cheese.

*The optional add-in toppings I used in the photo above were sliced salami and shredded white sharp cheddar cheese

My favorite way to eat avocado baked eggs is spread on toast.  YUM!

Enjoy,

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Ruby Red Cranberry Syrup and Margarita Recipe

Makes ~ 3-4 cups syrup (great holiday gift!). Store in refrigerator for up to one month.

Learn to make, and enjoy this beautiful homemade ruby-red cranberry syrup. Use it for cocktails, margaritas, daiquiris, etc. or also over pancakes and waffles. This recipe makes approximately 3 to 4 cups of syrup, and can be stored in the refrigerator for up 6 weeks.

In a shaker over ice, mix 2-3 T cranberry syrup, 3 T silver tequila, 2 T orange liquor (not triple sec!) juice of 1 lime and a squeeze of agave nectar. Pour into chilled martini glasses. Cheers!

INGREDIENTS:

For Cranberry Syrup Recipe:

  • 4 Cups of cranberries (frozen or thawed)
  • 1 1/2 Cups of sugar
  • 3 Cups of water

For Margarita Recipe:

Use all of the ingredients listed above for cranberry syrup, including:

  • Agave syrup
  • 5 tablespoons of white tequila, I prefer Patron, but any blanco tequila of your choice is fine.
  • 4 tablespoons of orange favored liquor, (Not a triple sec)  I prefer Bacardi O.
  • Limes

DIRECTIONS:

  • Combine cranberries, 2 cups of water and sugar in a large saucepan over high heat.

Combine cranberries, water and sugar in a large saucepan over high heat.

  • Cook, stirring frequently with wooden spoon, for 10-15 minutes. Cranberries will burst naturally due to heat. If you press against pot with back of spoon, it will release more fruit, and mixture will thicken.

Cook, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes. Cranberries will burst (press against pot w/ back of spoon to release more fruit), and mixture will thicken.

  • Strain cranberry mixture through fine mesh sieve, adding up to 1 cup additional water to make more syrup. Press and stir cranberries against sieve to extract as much syrup as possible.

Strain cranberry mixture through fine mesh sieve, adding up to 1 cup additional water to make more syrup. Press and stir cranberries against sieve to extract as much syrup as possible.

  • You will end up with this beautiful ruby-red cranberry syrup!

You will end up with a beautiful ruby-red cranberry syrup! I use mine for cocktails (margaritas, champagne, etc...), but this syrup would also be good over pancakes or waffles.

  • Makes 3-4 cups of syrup. Store in refrigerator for up to one month.

Makes ~ 3-4 cups syrup (great holiday gift!). Store in refrigerator for up to one month.

NOW FOR THE DELICIOUS CRANBERRY MARGARITA:

  • In a shaker over ice, mix 3 1/2 cups of cranberry syrup, 5 tablespoons of white tequila, 4 tablespoons of orange liquor (not triple sec), juice of 1 lime and a squeeze of agave nectar.
  • Pour into chilled martini glasses.
  • Enjoy!!!

In a shaker over ice, mix 2-3 T cranberry syrup, 3 T silver tequila, 2 T orange liquor (not triple sec!) juice of 1 lime and a squeeze of agave nectar. Pour into chilled martini glasses. Cheers!

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Quick, Easy and Delicious Fruit Dip

 

rainbow fruit kabobs recipe

One of my favorite dips as a child was fruit dip, not only because I could eat it along with fruit, but because it was so quick and easy to make.

Made with only two main ingredients, and a side of any fruit or cookie of your choice, this dip will please anyone.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 17 oz container Marshmallow Fluff

  • 18 oz container of cream cheese

Cream Cheese Package Of every cream cheese box

(For Strawberry flavored dip, use strawberry cream cheese. And my other tip: have fun and add strawberry chunks to the mixture Mmmm!!!)

  • Fruits of your choice for dipping
  • Optional: 1 cup of Cool Whip

DIRECTIONS:

  • Allow the cream cheese to sit out for 10 minutes to soften. This is my personal preference, but not mandatory
  • Place the marshmallow fluff, cream cheese and cool whip (optional) into a bowl
  • Using a fork, an electric or handheld mixer, beat the ingredients together until smooth
  • Optional: To be even more creative, add flavored extracts such as raspberry, orange, vanilla ect…slowly add to your tasting.

  • Spread on, or dip with your favorite fruit

This is even great with graham crackers, animal crackers, Pizzelles and Nilla wafers. Even have kids dip their favorite Teddy Grahams for an easy accessible afternoon snack.

Dip can be prepared two days ahead, set in a Tupperware covered dish, and placed in refrigerator. Left overs are good for 7 days but  should be covered and stored in refrigerator.

Enjoy,

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

How To Drink Ginger Ale Properly

How to drink Ginger Ale Properly                                                                    

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

It’s that time of year again where many of us are victim of stomach bugs and we are finding ourselves over bowls of soup and sipping ginger ale. As much as we believe we are nursing ourselves and our children back to health, we tend to make a few mistakes along the way which may actually upset our bodies more. It’s bad enough when we misdiagnose something for another, and treat it as so, it only makes it worse until the proper care is given, but the most common mistakes I see people do is buy the wrong brands of ginger ale and serve the correct ones incorrectly.

Traditionally, you can either eat ginger as a delicacy, use it as a medicine, or take it as a spice. It has been advocated as a treatment for an upset stomach at least since the days of the Greek doctor Dioscorides. Now we have carbonated sodas such as Ginger ale which is a common home remedy for nausea and vomiting of people suffering from food poisoning, gastroenteritis, morning sickness or the complications of chemotherapy. It is also used by NASA astronauts for space sickness.

Ginger is a carminative, which means it helps to expel gas from the stomach or intestines, one of the main reasons for stomach upset.  Gas can be extremely painful, in fact many cases of those who bring themselves to the emergency for severe stomach cramping find out that they only had intense gas pains. Ginger, or ginger ale also soothes tissues and relaxes cramping and is beneficial as an anti-inflammatory and general digestive aid as it helps to promote the body’s formation of enzymes and good bacteria in the gut, but it has to be consumed correctly.

Many people find it soothing to the stomach and an easy way to replenish their fluids and electrolytes, which are the salts and minerals such as chloride, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium that conduct electricity and help power your cells. Proper balance of electrolytes is critical for muscle coordination in your heart and also crucial for your nerves and brain to function.

Regardless of ginger’s effect, most ginger ales contain little or no real ginger. However, the ale is easily digestible, which makes it a soothing drink that is likely to stay down along with any other clear soda because it doesn’t contain the dark dyes. However, the soda has to flat and no longer be carbonated. Of course if you replace ginger ale made with real ginger, with another clear soda, the effects won’t be the same as the key ingredient is ginger.

My choice of ginger ale is always either Vernors, or Canada Dry when an upset stomach arrives. Where I live, a cheaper brand of soda, Faygo, is a more popular choice due to the price and quantity value, but it contains no real ginger, just added sugars and artificial flavors which causes more of an upset stomach later. It is very critical to read labels of anything before you put it in your body, and carbonated beverages is one.

Naturally, we reach for the cooler when purchasing something to drink, but when an upset stomach is pulling you towards ginger ale, it’s best to get one that hasn’t made it to the cooler yet, or allow one that has; to warm. If you are someone who suffers from digestive issues or stomach aches quite often, it’s good to always keep warm ginger ale in stock at home, warm in a shelf of course, so when discomfort arrives, the ginger ale is almost automatically ready to be sipped. I say sipped with emphasis, and I will explain later.

Acid, not bubbles, responsible for distinctive 'bite' of carbonated beverages, researchers reveal

Drinking ginger ale flat and warm is crucial when trying to calm an upset stomach because carbonated drinks can cause gas bubbles to form in the stomach, which may further disturb an upset digestive system. For this reason, you should especially never drink ginger ale straight out of the can. Always allow it to sit at room temperature until the fizz has disappeared. To speed up the process, you can also stir the carbonation out, but make sure to continue to stir until there is no more fizz. You can also pour it from one glass into another several times to hasten the release of the carbon dioxide into the air. When it tastes “flat”, it is safe and ready to consume.

Another reason to drink ginger ale warm, or any other beverages when feeling nauseas is because, very cold liquids can shock the digestive system and further upset the stomach. You should also not drink ginger ale or other liquids until at least an hour after you have vomited. To rehydrate after vomiting, sip lukewarm water and see if it will stay down. After this, if the vomiting slows or subsides, you can graduate to ginger ale.

Slowly sip it to avoid overloading pressure on your stomach. Frequent small sips are more effective than infrequent long drinks. Do not rely on your thirst alone to judge how often you should drink, but if the thought, taste or smell of the ale increases your nausea, wait until later. However, after you can keep it down, take a sip every 20 to 30 minutes to begin replenishing your fluids.

An upset stomach is usually accompanied by diarrhea which can also be calmed by ginger ale. When you feel the onset of diarrhea about to occur, with or without stomach nausea, you can blame your failure to include not only enough water, but ginger in your diet. The reason is that certain kinds of compounds found within ginger are an active agent that works against forms of diarrhea.

Digestion2013-04-01_1051

So next time you have an upset digestive system and are feeling sick, sip warm, no longer carbonated ginger ale, made with real ginger and not just artificial flavors.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Antipasto Party Platter

“Break out the crunchy breads and wine bottles, it’s time to snack”…..Samantha Jonas-Rongo

I celebrate the holidays every year. It wouldn’t be complete without an antipasto platter.  These are a great gift, or dish to take to the next event you are invited too. This is also a beautiful, colorful and tasty centerpiece to set the stage of any meal. This platter is easy to make. You get to choose what goes on it and it’s a good start to any festivity when everyone is waiting on dinner to be served. Serve along side your favorite wine, and even garlic bread.

Antipasto Party Platter                                                                                         

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

This platter is easy to make. You get to choose what goes on it. It's a good start to the holiday festivities when everyone is waiting on dinner to be served. Serve along side your favorite wine.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Dry salami
  • Genoa salami
  • Sorpressata
  • Ham
  • Block Mozzarella cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese balls
  • Block of Provolone cheese
  • Prosciutto
  • Roasted red pepper, sliced long and medium thin
  • Sun dried cherry tomatoes
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Marinated mushrooms
  • Marinated olives
  • Marinated artichoke hearts
  • Large round platter

DIRECTIONS:

Take a round platter with or without dividers and place washed romaine over itOk I celebrate the holidays every year. It wouldn't be complete without an antipasto platter. I make my own it's easy. Take a round platter with or without dividers and place washed romaine over it.

Take the cold cuts, roll them up and place them nicely around the platter

Take the cold cuts roll them up and place them nicely on the platter

Cut your dry salami and roll them the same as the other cold cuts, place every-other around platter, leaving space in the center and 5 areas along edge for later cheeses, peppers and tomatoes

Cut your dry salami and do the same with them

Chop your 2 cheese blocks in 6 medium sized cubed pieces, place to the side

Cut remaining cheese in medium rectangular pieces then place them nicely next to the cold cuts, each cheese type separated Chop your cheese and place them nicely next to the cold cuts

Place olives on 1/3 of center of platter with the 6 cheese cubes from earlier

Look how nice my platter is starting to look. I placed my olives in the center of my platter

Next goes the marinated mushrooms placed in the other 1/3 of the center

Next goes the marinated mushrooms they were also placed in the center of the platter

This wouldn’t be an antipasto platter without marinated artichoke hearts, place on remaining 1/3 of the center of platter

This wouldn't be an antipasto platter without marinated artichoke hearts. Yummy

Place sundried tomatoes next to the cold cuts in 2 empty spaces

For this platter I purchased these sun dried cherry tomatoes that were awesome. I placed them right besides my cold cuts.

In another remaining space, place your mozzarella cheese balls

I also used miniature mozzarella balls. Yum

For color and of course flavor I lastly added slices of roasted red pepper in the last open area

For color and of course flavor I lastly added slices of roasted red pepper. That's it. The platter is ready to be served along some crusty bread and/or garlic bread.

Now the platter is all set and ready to go. Break out the crunchy breads and wine bottles, it’s time to snack!

This platter is easy to make. You get to choose what goes on it. It's a good start to the holiday festivities when everyone is waiting on dinner to be served. Serve along side your favorite wine.

Time to eat!!!

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

My Love for Moscato

“Call it Muscat in French or Moscato in Italian, regardless of its pronunciation, I absolutely loved my gift. I love this wine,…..”- Samantha Jonas-Rongo

 My Love for Moscato                                                                              

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Last Night my fiancé and I had attended his job’s company Christmas party and I was given a bottle of Moscato as a gift from his co-workers, our friends. Call it Muscat in French or Moscato in Italian, regardless of its pronunciation, I absolutely loved my gift. I love this wine, not only because I am a wine fan and am not a heavy drinker; but because Moscato offers a sweet taste that goes down smoothly and pairs well. After a long hard day of being fabulous, I like to relax with a glass of wine, but I don’t want it to bite me back. It is also yummy with salads, seafood, poultry, fruit and cheese plate, spicy dishes.  As I now sit, sip on my glass of delicious white Moscato and update my site, I figured why not share my knowledge and opinion of this wonderful drink so others can be inspired to either start or continue to enjoy it as well. I will also share my Pink Moscato and Red Raspberry Sangria recipe with you later in my recipe section of my website.

Moscato or Muscat is a white wine grape. The wines, slightly sweet and low in alcohol, are often served with dessert.

First things first:

There are three types of Moscato and they include:

  • White Moscato (My Favorite)- Crisp, fruity and bursting with flavors of peach, honey, and citrus.
  • Pink Moscato- Light-bodied and bursting with citrus and peach, with a hint of red berries
  • Red Moscato- Sweet red wine bursting with red berries and hints of citrus.

Moscato also is available in a variety of Bubbly, other flavors and is produced by many different brands.

In the U.S., wine drinking has held its own during these hard economic times. Moscato, the Italian dessert wine, has gone from relative obscurity to the toast of the town.

Until about a decade ago, the ancient Italian wine could have been described as obscure — what one wine expert called “a little backwater grape.” Now the words used about the rise of moscato are “breathtaking,” “phenomenal”. Industry watchers say they’ve never seen anything like it. It is the fastest growing varietal wine in the country.

At a time when complaints are that wines from all over the world are growing more alike, the original Moscato with origins in Piedmont, Italy, Moscato d’Asti is something of an anomaly. It is low in alcohol, sweet and slightly fizzy, all hardly the qualities most wine drinkers or critics seem to be looking for these days. A few years ago, Moscato d’Asti seemed to be headed for questioning in the wine industry. Then Moscato d’Asti was discovered by hip-hop artists.

Hip-hop singer/rapper and producer, Drake, in his song “Do It Now,” gives it a shout-out. It’s also the wine Kanye West orders, and it’s the wine Real Housewife of Atlanta, NeNe Leakes sells under the label “Miss Moscato”.

Moscato, the slightly sweet, fizzy, low alcohol and inexpensive white wine, has become the hip-hop community’s new favorite drink. Hence, it has cropped up in so many music artists vocabulary. For example, thereafter, the rapper Drake calls for a “glass of Moscato for the girl who’s a student and her friend who’s a model”; in a song he featured in with R&B singer, Trey Songz.

Soon, Moscato was being served at parties in New York and Los Angeles.

Sales of Moscato surged. Imitators sprang up around the globe, trying mostly unsuccessfully to match the signature taste of the Piemontese original but became delicious enough for many creditors, such as myself to enjoy. Jugs of Barefoot moscato are sold at BJ’s Wholesale Club, most local wine outlets, and is even on the menu at Olive Garden and other fine dining restaurants.

Moscato is inexpensive, generally $8 to $20 a bottle. It’s low in alcohol and has a lightly sweet, fresh flavor with hints of peaches, apricots, pears, orange blossoms and rose petals. Sweet wines are selling big, especially to the under 40 crowd, who grew up enjoying and appreciating sugary drinks.

It is being called a gateway beverage for new wine drinkers and an all-time favorite by others. Then there’s the whole hip-hop, edgy thing: Drink moscato and you’ll be cool like rapper Waka Flocka or Drake. Even many woman are now drinking wine rather than traditional hard or malt liquors because it’s classy and, sophisticated presence and it’s now recognition in the hip-hop and R&B world. All it took was a few shout-outs in a song to spread its presence as the same happened with Cristal champagne, Hennessy cognac and Patron tequila.

For years the drinks most associated with hip-hop were distinctly aspirational. Busta Rhymes rapped about Courvoisier, Jay-Z about Louis Roederer Cristal and later, Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades champagne, and Nas rhymed about vodka Grey Goose.

These were expensive symbols of the high life.

Now that Moscato, the fairly inexpensive but compelling wine is popular, it is a symbol that maybe times are starting to change and that you do not have to spend an extreme amount of cash to have something of greater value. However, Moscato is not just for nightly fun or night caps. These are yet more reasons why I enjoy this wine.

  • BRUNCH – If you’re looking for a brunch wine, Moscato pairs well with breakfast pastries, eggs, pancakes and other brunch foods such chicken or even fish.
  • COCKTAIL MUNCHIES – Crackers, cheese (hard or soft), and olives provide a salty counterpoint to the slightly sweet wine. Simple bruschetta is also a perfect pairing along with these snacks.
  • FRESH VEGTABLES – The crispness of raw vegetables pairs well with Moscato.
  • CHICKEN & FISH  – Moscato is delicious with lighter chicken and fish dishes.
  • CREAM SAUCES – Mild cream sauces pair well with Moscato.
  •  DESSERT – While moscato is far less sweet than other dessert wines, it has enough residual sugar to work with many desserts such as cheesecake or strawberry shortcake.
  • FRUIT – A snack or dessert of fresh fruit, or a fruit pie is an occasion for Moscato. Peaches are a perfect match with this peachy wine.
  • HAM – Here’s another fine sweet-and-salty pairing, whether it’s a baked dinner ham, a ham sandwich or ham-based brunch..
  • PICNICS & POOLSIDE – Moscato is an ideal wine to sip poolside or relaxing at a picnic while cooling off from the heat.
  • SALADS – Want a glass of wine with your lunch or dinner salad? Grab the Moscato.
  • SHELLFISH – Sweeter wines like Moscato are a favorite pairing with crab, lobster, shrimp, scallops and sushi.
  • SPICY FOODS – The slight sweetness of Moscato complements the heat and spice to pair with Asian, Indian and other hot cuisines, along with spicy favorites such as Spaghetti, pizza and garlic based dishes.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Healthy Pizza Snack Mix

For those with children, snacks are essential when satisfying their hunger, and contributing to their diet.” …..Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Healthy Pizza Snack Mix

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

With many sugar saturated cakes and fried, then salted chips lingering in our local stores and children’s minds, a healthy snack such as an apple or carrots are far too boring. I have a great recipe that is not only fun for a child to make, but it is healthier than an average sized bag of chips and cake like products. It is not only delicious enough for the kids, adults alike will also enjoy this easy to make snack.

Ingredients

  • 1 bag (8.75 oz) Chex Mix Traditional snack mix
  • 1 Cup Hormel Mini Pepperonis. For healthier results, replace with Hormel mini turkey pepperoni 
  • 1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese or 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup cubed mozzarella cheese. Pre-cut or self chopped.
  • 2 cups of Cheez-its or other cheese flavored crackers.
  •  2 tbsp. of dry spaghetti seasoning

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together. Serve immediately and enjoy. Due to the dairy products in recipe, store any remaining in the refrigerator.

Bon Appétit!                                                                                                       Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Merry Berry Christmas Kid Mocktail

Merry Berry Christmas Kid Mocktail    

By Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Make the kids feel like a part of the festivities with this mint and berry “mocktail.” What kid can’t resist fresh raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and sugar? Have a Merry Berry Christmas! This party beverage is great in the summertime as well, but its vibrant red color makes it ideal for Christmas and it makes an enjoyable New Years Eve drink for the kiddos to stay up and make.

 

INGREDIENTS

5 fresh raspberries

4 fresh blueberries

2 fresh blackberries

1 1/2 tablespoons guava nectar

5 fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 cup crushed ice

6 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons ginger ale

Garnish: halved fresh raspberries and blackberries (optional)

 
PREPARATION

Muddle 5 fresh raspberries, blueberries, 2 fresh blackberries, guava nectar, mint leaves, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Stir in crushed ice and water. Cover with lid, and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled (7 to 10 seconds). Pour mixture into a 16-oz. glass, and top with ginger ale. Garnish, if desired

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

My Easy Beef Pastellios

My Easy Beef Pastellios

By Samantha Jonas-Rongo

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“I started teaching and sharing my recipes with my stepson for four reasons; he won’t have to depend on any woman to cook for him; He will have a family of his own that he will have to cook for one day, and when the day comes where he may want to cook for me; I want to have a wide variety selection menu to chose from, and I want it to be good”!!!! LOL …..Samantha Jonas-Rongo

One of my favorite appetizers to make and eat is the Pastellio. It is my 8 yr. old stepson’s absolute favorite which is why I was inspired to share my recipe with you all. Mmmm!!!….. The delicious combination of beef, potato, cheese, olives, seasoned to perfection, and fried delicately inside a flaky pastry shell originating from Latin America will satisfy anyone. They’re not just delicious but they are simple to make. Not only are they great on the side of a meal, (especially my favorite and special of steak, rice, beans with a side of salad and sliced avocado); they are great alone as an appetizer, or snack. You can even enjoy them with hot sauce or other homemade sauces if you’re the daring type of guy or gal. With Christmas on its way, Pastellio’s make great snacks before dinner or even as a side dish. Either way you decide to eat them, you’ll be thankful you made them a part of your daily menu, you won’t be disappointed.

First things first….INGREDIENTS

1 lb. of ground beef

1/4 cup of water

1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup) ….optional

1/4 cup of tomato sauce…pref. GOYA brand

10 olives stuffed with pimento, slice thin… optional

1 1/2 packet of GOYA Sazon with coriander and annatto 1 tsp.. of minced garlic or 2 garlic cloves finely chopped

1 tsp.. of dried oregano

3 tbsp.. of GOYA Sofrito…frozen or jarred. For best results, use homemade Sofrito


1/2 tsp. of pepper to taste

1/2 tsp. of GOYA Adobo to taste 

1 package (14 oz.) GOYA Discos (Yellow or White), thawed

2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled, cut in 1 in cubes

2 cups of shredded cheese…pref. cheddar but it’s your option

corn or vegetable oil for frying… if deep-frying, leave enough oil to cover the pastellios as they fry but remember to leave room in the fryer for oil to rise. If frying inside an average frying pan,.oil standing alone shouldn’t be any higher than 1 1/2 inches high. Heat should be on medium.

To add more flavor, you can add green, and red peppers or even corn.

Now Let’s Get Started….DIRECTIONS

  1. Defrost Discos
  2. Place 1 tbsp. of Sofrito on pan, mixed with water, heat for approximately 3 minutes or until Sofrito begins to lightly bubble. Heat should be medium.
  3. Add diced potatoes, mixing them in Sofrito mix to coat
  4. Cover pan and let fry for 5 minutes
  5. Add ground beef and brown beef and potatoes until soft
  6. Drain and return to pan
  7. Add spices, garlic, olives, and tomato sauce. Mix well to combine
  8. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes so flavor can blend into meat and potatoes
  9. THIS STEP IS OPTIONAL, SOME PEOPLE, such as myself, PREFER TO MIX CHEESE IN MEAT BLEND AND MELT IT AS THE MEAT IS IN PAN, OR YOU CAN SKIP THIS STEP AND ADD CHEESE ON TOP OF MEAT WHEN FILLING DISCO.
  10. Spoon meat mixture onto one half of defrosted Disco
  11. Top meat with cheese if haven’t added cheese yet
  12.  Fold disco over. Crimp edges with a fork to seal.

If preparing pastellios before frying, make sure to wrap with seal sheet the disco came with so dough will stay moist. If disco starts to dry, wet fingers and touch disco to moisten dough. If needed, you can rub edges of disco before closing with fork.

Pastellios can also be frozen after being prepared and fried later, just wrap with saran wrap and place in freezer for up to a month. Warm in microwave for 4 minutes and fry as normal.

13. Fry pastellios in hot oil until golden brown and crispy on both sides.

14. Drain and serve immediately, ENJOY!!!



Enjoy,                                                                                                                  Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Hi, America? America needs our help!

 Hi, America? America Needs Our Help!                                                                     Samantha Jonas-Rongo

 “People should have food at their calling as we do oxygen on a daily basis”…Samantha Jonas-Rongo

With the holidays arriving abruptly, we are finishing up with our last minute shopping, decorating and travel plans. It is the time of year where meal preparations and dinner invites make the holidays even more special. Friends and family will be surrounding each other sharing years of meal traditions as many less fortunate families and individuals are going to go without a basic meal to eat. Give this season to those who need it the most. You can even make a donation and place it in your child’s name. Give them the credit and the experience of helping those who can benefit from it the most. This is what Christmas is all about anyways, right? Below I have attached links to some of the charities my husband  and I donate to throughout the year . Help feed America and give the season a true meaning.

    – Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Click on any of the links below to donate or browse their site.

Feed The Children

Feeding America

http://www.foodpantries.org/ Find your local food pantry for services or donations.

Salvation Army Find your local Salvation Army or donate online