Shop Your Pantry & Give the Gift of Prosperity!

What to do when time and funds are in short supply...

and I find myself in need of a few more simple gifts

to offer as a token of my affection to friends and family

I put together packets of my famous ...

Prosperity Soup TM and Prosperity Hummus TM

and present them by way of my

Good Thoughts Collection

How? I take ordinary dried beans from the pantry

(today I had a lot of white, northern beans)

along with some recycled white cardboard coffee cups...

(washed out with a weak water and bleach mixture).

I dig out some of my plastic produce netting...

from our jar on the counter.

I pull out our staple supply of cellophane bags....

and repackage the beans for gift~giving.

I'm sure you must remember my long~time motto...

"Packaging is everything!"

Some of the soup packets I put inside a recycled, cardboard cup...

cradling it all with white netting

and scraps of brown paper from my recycling box

...and tied with raffia.

Other packets become part of a larger gift basket...

and carry labels I generate from our computer.

Here, I printed out my favorite bean recipes...

rolled the paper into a scroll...tied them closed using raffia

...and included them when I presented the gift.


All were made in about an hour

using items available in the pantry...

my recycling bin and computer.


What do you have in your pantry that would make a welcome...

yet fast and frugal gift?


Idea and partial excerpt from first book,

Frugal Luxuries, published by Bantam,NY, NY, 1997.


Gifts from Nature's Bounty: Edible Wreaths

Would you like to see how easy it is to....

Transform this...




and this



Discover how easy it is by clicking the link below!
Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons.


Frugal Luxuries ™ and Real Simple© Solutions for Holiday Cookie Baking

Frugal Luxuries : Classics

This past weekend...

while nursing a verrry pesky cold...

and drinking copious amounts of tea...

I spent my time resting and browsing through old issues of the little newsletter we once published (years ago) called...

Frugal Luxuries (these later became the genesis of our Frugal Luxuries book series)!


Keeping in mind the advent of Advent

and the approaching Holidays...

I sought classic ideas from my newsletters to remind me

of ways I had Simplified my Holiday Baking in the past.

It was there that I came upon this article from our regular food feature...

Every Day A Feast TM
Autumn 2001.

Please click on any image to enlarge.

As you may recall, this is not the first time I've written about

my grandmother's Swedish Butter Cookies !

If you look very closely,

you will see the newsletter in the image below...

along with extra rolls of the ambrosial butter~cookie~dough

with which I stock the freezer

for simple & easy gift~giving... this!!


I ruminated and reminisced over the second and third pages which

shared my secrets on how to...

Create 5 different Cookies from One Dough Recipe!

(Please click on image to enlarge.)


After a time,

I was more than ready to turn my mind to some fresh reading

(not my own thoughts ;) so...

I turned to the stack of mail Mike had brought in earlier.

Imagine then, my surprise, when I found this...

The December issue of Real Simple magazine!!

I quietly rejoiced.

As a long~time fan of the magazine,

I poured a fresh cup of tea and prepared myself for a treat.

Still very much in the holiday spirit...

and more than a little bit hungry after reading about cookies all afternoon...

I turned immediately to the Food section

where my eyes lit up as I spied their Quick Takes feature:

10 Ideas for: Sugar Cookie Dough [!!}

Now, I've always recognized the Real Simple folks as being kindred spirits...

and the magazine has often been an inspirational breath of fresh air (so to speak)...

but this was serendipitous!!

As well...

the magazine inspired several new ideas for simplifying this years' holiday baking!


Just look at these cookies...

and all from


Photo: Real Simple

Simple sugar cookie cut~outs...

Photo: Real Simple

Traditional cutouts with colored sugar sprinkles...

Photo: Real Simple

Chocolate Hazelnut sandwich cookies (use the Nutella in your pantry as filling)...

Photo: Real Simple

Cherry Almond Jumbles

(trail mix would work nicely in these and no cookie cutters needed~

they're drop cookies made from sugar cookie dough!)...

Photo: Real Simple

Orange glazed cookies (now I know how to use up that last drizzle of orange juice!)...

Photo: Real Simple

Jam Thumb Prints

(mine will be purple plum jam use up that huge batch of jam I made last year!)...

Photo: Real Simple

easy chocolate peppermint wafers

(I'm planning to melt Halloween candy bars for dipping and
crushed candy canes for the peppermint sprinkles)...

Photo: Real Simple

Cinnamon pinwheels (I think I might give these to a neighbor along with a vintage tea cup and a box or tin of nice tea) .


I am always a champion of simple ideas

that look as if they cost more money and time that they actually do...

and all of these inspirational ideas from
Real Simple do just that!

However... this is just the tip of the iceberg:

their magazine and blog are very rich in information and inspiration.

I found an abundance of holiday ideas (with photographs like these) on the

Real Simple website.

(But be warned, I've already gone over my computer~time budget by visiting their site alone!!)

All of these cookies look festive, fancy and delicious
to eat and/or share.

I am
definitely going to start with the

the pinwheels, chocolate peppermint and the jumbles


one more reason I'm so excited is that

I plan to make a
variety of these and similar cookies to give as...

Photo: Real Simple

Frugally Luxurious...Really Simple...Gifts !


I don't want to forget about the

Cookie Exchange!!


Christmas Cookie Swap: Free Party Planning Printables! | Organized Christmas

Photo: Google Images

My good friend Charmaine (Beautiful Things to Share)

has just created an inspiring new blog called...

"The Cookie Swap Blog"!

She only has a few posts...

yet... she's already ignited my enthusiasm about the idea of the Cookie Swap !

As bloggers are want to do,

I began exploring other cookie blogs and found
the link below:
Christmas Cookie Swap: Free Party Planning Printables! | Organized Christmas

Which offers great suggestions, and planning sheets, for how organize a cookie swap...

as well as your entire holiday season!!

Dreams of Mandalay & Homemade Chunky Apple-Cranberry Butter...

Transform these...

Into this...

....and have FUN while doing it!

Here's our Secret Strategy.

"Last Night I Dreamed of Mandalay..."
these words, spoken by Joan Fontaine, in Alfred Hitchcock's classic film "Rebecca" (based on Daphne de Maurier's book) sent chills up my arms as I peeled yet another apple to include in my current batch of chunky apple-cranberry butter.

First, I gather all my supplies atop a large baking sheet (one with sides works nicely).

In order to keep the peeled apples from browning I squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice on them.

Once peeled and cored, I cut the apples into my saucepan and add the remaining juice of my lemon (and sometimes a bit of the zest).

I also sprinkle in about a half-cup of fresh-frozen cranberries (to add a bit of tang).

Next, I allow the apples and cranberries to cook to a soft, but slightly chunky, texture (about thirty minutes, on a medium simmer, staying close by and stirring every few minutes or so).

When the apple-cranberry butter is ready, I pour it inside my French glasses.
They are then covered and refrigerated for later use atop flavor plain include in recipes... or to add to savory sauces for natural sweetness and flavor.
The "Movie Watching Technique" has been my long-time method for transforming sometimes tedious tasks into pleasant experiences that I often look forward to.

I cannot count how many dresses I've created, over the years, while watching
"Anne of Green Gables" , "Anne of Avonlea" & "Little Women"
(my favorite sewing videos/dvds)...


how many pie's and pie fillings I've prepared...or...

batches of cookies, cakes and cupcakes I've baked...

or how many batches of jam I've put up...

or... vegetables and fresh foods prepared and frozen for future meals.

Today, I often save our current Netflix movies for watching/listening to while I tackle an otherwise boring or dreaded task such as, cleaning out the refrigerator/freezer, painting, cooking and canning, folding laundry and the like.


Joys of the Pantry

Stocking the Pantry
"The very honey of all earthly joy."
--Abraham Cowley

Our kind friend Carol wrote a lovely post on how she manages to stock the pantry on a regular basis and thus keep a firm hold on her food budget. In it she writes:

"At our home, we firmly believe in having a well stocked pantry. We learnt a few years back that we needed one to survive when hubby was out of work. We knew 2 years ahead of time that his job was going to be gone. Once we found out, I began filling the pantry...we lived off it for one full year.

Now we stock our pantry because of the economy, where we live (we are one hour away from the city) and because of our winter weather. I've watched as grocery prices continue to rise even when shopping at Superstore.

We live in an old victorian home, over 100 years old. We have a partial basement, however it's very small. Hubby built me shelving so that I could store my preserves. Our freezer is down there, we store our potatoes down there isn't much room once we have the furnace and water tank...."

Please click the link below to finish reading Carol's post...


Joys of the Pantry

Excerpt from Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons by Tracey McBride

Unlike most arrogance, pride and joy in one's pantry are quite acceptable. The writer Laura Ingalls Wilder understood the sublime pleasure of the pantry and wrote about it quite freely. As a new bride, she savored the practical luxury of her own first pantry--a wedding gift, built for her by her young husband . She took joy in its many cubbyholes, drawers, and deep bins designed to store large quantities of cornmeal and graham flour.

Often thought to be the cornerstone of the home, the pantry is the kitchen's companion. I urge you to create a special place in which to house your pantry, regardless of the size of your home. While some homes are large enough to designate an entire room to this purpose, most of us feel blessed if we can manage a large cupboard to use as a pantry. If your pantry space is limited, you may wish to adopt a free-standing cupboard as your larder. We have a friend who has converted an inexpensive, unfinished pine armoire into a charming pantry where she stocks her dry and canned goods. She has lined the pale pine shelves with cream-colored scallop-edged paper. The result surprises the visitor with its simple elegance. When I was a child, my mother devised a variety of pantries in unlikely places: the coat closet and beneath her bed are just two that come to mine--she stored dry and canned goods inside deep wooden boxes that glided smoothly over the carpets.
However humble or grand the pantry, it is a simple functioning place for storing food. it is a simple functioning place for storing food. It imparts a sense of well-being and abundance to any household.


Transform the Ordinary : Carmelized Onions

How to Transform the Ordinary Onion.

Caramelized Onions are a Secret Ingredient that will...

transform an ordinary dish into a..

delectable feast.

(Don't be surprised when people say, "This is sooo good--what did you use?")

I prepare these ahead and try to always have them available

for a quick enhancement to a

number of diverse recipes!

(Please see bottom of this post for some suggested uses)


Here's how easy it is to make caramelized onions:

Finely slice three, medium, yellow onions (peel first).

I use a mandolin slicer (found at a yard sale, years ago, for fifty-cents)

and a yellow onion (I slice it atop a cutting surface).

Plop them all into a medium-size cast iron skillet (or...use your favorite frying pan).

Add about three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a tablespoon or two of real butter.

(You could just use a simple vegetable oil if you prefer.)

Saute' the onions on the lowest heat...


You will need to stir the onions often.

I set my kitchen timer for 10 to 20 minute increments

and putter around nearby doing other things while the onions caramelize.

I have noticed that (as time goes by in the cooking process) after about the first hour,

I will need to check their progress more often...

about every 7 to 10 minutes (sometimes less)...

or they may burn on me.

NOTE: There are variables that will effect the time frame for stirring.

The water content of the onion is one. Also, pan and stove may also cause the onions to cook faster or slower than usual.

If you've never done this before, I highly recommend that you

check and stir the onions more often throughout, during the first time you try this.

I know, it may seem like a bit of work...

however, in my opinion, it is VERY worth the due diligence as well...

it is a rich and delicious flavor that you cannot get in any other manner!!

Do not let the onions burn!!

TIP: If they do burn a bit, just use a fork to carefully remove the burnt bits and continue on...

they still taste delicious!!

After about two hours...

your onions will be sweet...

with a lovely caramel color...

and look like this!

Nectar of the Gods.

I place the caramelized onions inside a crock and ...

keep them tightly covered in the refrigerator...

where they become my secret (and very delicious) ingredient in a variety of dishes!

(They will last up to three weeks in the 'fridge...but you'll probably eat them all up before then.)


Add a dollop of Caramelized Onion to:

Liven up fresh or leftover Mashed Potatoes

(first, dice them fine--I use scissors for this :)...

add to the pan as you fry potatoes or hash browns

(TIP: I use leftover baked potatoes for fried potatoes or hash browns) ...

use caramelized onions to liven up leftovers by adding them to slices of warmed, leftover chicken breast, steak, or even meat loaf ...

use caramelized onions to enhance an ordinary sandwich...

or... add them to a slow cooked beef roast and you may have everyone raving

(TIP: If you like the taste of the onion-soup-mix roast, this is similar but way better) ...

Add a tablespoon of caramelized onions to hot oil when preparing...

sauteed vegetables...

Scrambled eggs are so delicious when you add a touch of caramelized onions to them...

Caramelized onion also impart a rich flavor to simple vegetable soup broths...

Dice & mix them with plain yogurt, sour cream and/or cream cheese for an amazing dip


sandwich spread (I've made some tantalizing tea sandwiches this way) ...

and, of course, they are a prime ingredient in creating authentic French onion soup!

In fact...

The possibilities are endless!!