Joyful Thrifty Home -
Apr 232014

Get your FREE recipe cards

I am so excited to unveil one of my new projects with you! I created a set of printable 5×7 recipe cards featuring twenty of my favorite recipes. It includes some favorites from right here on Joyful Thrifty Home plus some others that I have never before published. So right now, the only way you can get these recipes is by getting a copy of my Favorite Recipes card set. The best part, is that I want to offer you my new printable recipe cards free of charge!

Please note: Some links within this post are my affiliate links. This means that I may receive some compensation should you choose to make a purchase after clicking one of these links. There is no extra cost to you for using my links to make a purchase. Read my disclosure policy here. Thank you for supporting Joyful Thrifty Home!

How do you get yours?

Well, I am glad you asked! All you have to do is buy the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle through my link anytime between Wednesday April 23rd and Monday April 28th. After you make your purchase, just send me a copy of your receipt and your printable recipe cards will be emailed to.  

What’s included in the recipe cards?

You will get a fifteen page pdf document with twenty different recipes that once printed and cut will create 5×7 sized cards. Once you print them on heavy paper or card stock, you can use them with other recipe cards the same size or punch a hole on the corner of each card and hang them on a binder ring. For even more durable cards, you can even laminate them.

For some examples of recipes included, take a look at the above graphic. Pictured above you will see; slow cooker zuppa toscana, grilled chicken fajitas, spicy beans and rice, ranch cheese ball, chocolate lava cakes, peppermint mocha and creamy tomato soup. I included a variety of recipes so there’s sure to be something you’ll love!

What else do you need to know?

Since the only way to get my printable recipe cards for free is to purchase the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, I am sure you are wondering what it’s all about. The first thing you should know is that I am honored to be a part the homemaking bundle this year as a contributing author! My new devotional Set Apart is part of the bundle!!

Here’s a short overview of you get with your Ultimate Homemaking Bundle purchase 

Along with my new devotional which also includes printable word art and scripture cards that I designed, you will also get a wealth of great books and resources related to homemaking. There’s are wide range of topics including; faith, financial stewardship, homemaking, food, marriage, motherhood, pregnancy and babies, faith for kids, holidays and special events, homeschooling, working from home and blogging, health and wellness, self-care .


The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle really is a complete library of great eBooks on homemaking—a truly valuable knowledge base you’ll use for many years to come.

Unlike a library, though, you don’t have to spend years building it up. The Ultimate Bundles team has done the hard work for you, searching the web to find the very best eBooks from top homemaking authors and combining them into one essential collection that you can buy in one simple purchase.

I’m confident you won’t find a more comprehensive set of homemaking resources anywhere — and certainly not at this price. Bought separately, they’d cost a total of $698 (plus $200+ in bonuses!). But you can have all of them for just $29.97!

Or, for just an extra $10, you not only get the full set of PDF files, but also a bonus set of Kindle editions, perfectly formatted for easy Kindle reading. This has been a popular request over the years and I’m excited to say it’s now available!

Buy the PDF Bundle

Buy the Kindle Bundle

Want even more recipes?

If you love recipes, then you will love the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle!! There’s fourteen books just in the food section. Purchased separately, those books would cost $142.27!! You get all those books and many more for just $29.97. So this section alone is well worth the price of the bundle. This really is a no brainer! Where else can you get so many great resources for less than $30!?!


Some of the books I am most excited about are in the food section! The ones that really caught my eye were Simplified Dinners, The ABC’s of Freezer cooking, Meal Planning Made Easy and Real Food on a Real Budget.

Want to know more about the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle and enter to win an iPad??

Click here for a more detailed description of what’s included. Plus scroll through that page to find the entry form for your chance to win an awesome giveaway that includes an iPad mini, a $25 Amazon gift card and your choice of a Flirty Apron!!


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Mar 312014

Five Steps to Treating a Cold Naturally

I recently came down with a nasty cold. It started with a bit of a sore throat then progressed overnight to a full-blown head cold. I woke up the next day completely miserable and barely able to get out of bed. My usual approach to tackling a cold like this is to reach for nasal decongestants and cold medicine. While I do still take those occasionally when needed, I have tried to move away from reaching for medicine for every little ailment. When it comes to treating a cold, there are some things that you can do to help manage it without medicine.  Many of these tips can actually be used everyday, not just when you feel like you’re getting sick, as a way to help prevent sickness in the first place. Natural Cold Remedies

Please note: Some links within this post are my affiliate links. This means that I may receive some compensation should you choose to make a purchase after clicking one of these links. There is no extra cost to you for using my links to make a purchase. Read my disclosure policy here. Thank you for supporting Joyful Thrifty Home!

1. Boost the Immune System

A healthy immune system is important your overall health. When you feel like you are getting sick, it’s likely that your immune system is weakened and compromised. So one of the first things to do is work on boosting that immune system!

  • Drink herbal tea. I drink a variety of herbal teas but when I feel like I am getting sick I reach for Echinacea immune support tea. Echinacea is known for its immune boosting properties so it’s a good choice to help combat sickness. Along with Echinacea the tea also has a blend of other herbs including elderberry extract, mullein leaf, peppermint, lemon-grass and rose hip. I also have an immune support dietary supplement from Tri-Light Health that I add to my Echinacea tea.
  • Increase your vitamin C intake. The easiest way to do this is to drink some orange juice or eat fruits or vegetables known to be high in vitamin C. Some of the best sources of vitamin C are oranges, red or green bell peppers, strawberries, kale, broccoli and papaya.
  • Reduce stress. Heightened stress can be rough on the immune system and can actually make you more susceptible to getting sick. Try simple deep breathing exercises, go for a walk or do some stress relieving exercises like yoga. As another stress reliever, I also like putting a little lavender essential oil on my wrists or spritzing a mixture of diluted lavender into the air.
  • Get some probiotics. The easiest way to get probiotics is in yogurt with live and active cultures. I like Greek yogurt because it also has extra protein.
  • Eat some garlic. Garlic is great for your overall health as it is a natural immune booster and has antimicrobial properties. So use it in your cooking when you can. For best results when fighting off sickness, you should eat garlic fresh and raw. Leigh Ann of Intentional by Grace has a list of seven ways to eat raw garlic if you need some help deciding how to get it down.

herbal tea

2. Soothe a Sore Throat 

A sore throat can often be the first sign of a cold so it’s good to have a few ways to soothe it naturally.

  • Honey. Take a spoonful of honey for quick relief or make a cup of tea and mix the honey in. For an extra bonus add some lemon juice to your tea too! Raw and local honey is best but I haven’t taken the plunge yet so I am still using the cheaper store-bought stuff. It will still work for your sore throat but you may not get some of the other benefits of raw honey.
  • Gargle salt water. Just mix about half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and gargle for a minute or so then spit out.
  • Eat a bowl of hot soup. You probably typically think of chicken noodle soup when you are sick which is a good option. I recently had some homemade tomato soup (recipe coming soon!) when I was sick and loved how well it soothed my throat. Something about the tomato, garlic, onion and carrot mixture with a little heat from red pepper flake worked wonders on my sore throat! Plus the extra veggies are good for you too.

tomato soup

3. Treat Sinus Pressure and Congestion

I often get sinus congestion and pressure when the weather changes so I like having a few ways to treat it before I decide to reach for the nasal decongestants, which admittedly if it is bad enough I do still use. I would like to eventually be able not rely the decongestants at all but I do use it sparingly.

  • Get some steam. There are a couple of ways to do this. One is to just simply take a hot shower or sit in the bathroom while you run the hot water for 5-10 minutes. The warmth and steam will help clear up some of your congestion. You’ll also be able to blow your nose a little easier. Another way is to bring a small pot of water to boil in the stove. For an added bonus, add a few drops of eucalyptus or RC essential oil to your water. Take a towel and put it over your head and place your head over the water. Be careful not to get too close as it can get very hot and you don’t want to burn yourself. If necessary, turn the heat down a little. Take deep breaths and allow the steam to soothe your congestion.
  • Try this trick. I don’t even remember where I found this, but I was desperate one day looking for a way to ease my sinus pain and stumbled across it. The trick is this; push your tongue onto the roof of your mouth for a few seconds then release. Once you release your tongue, press your finger on your forehead between your eyebrows. Alternate this for about 20 seconds or so. it sounds weird, but it really does help relieve some of the pressure and drain your sinuses.
  • Use essential oils known to improve respiratory function. Mix one or two drops of eucalyptus or RC essential oil with a small drop of olive or coconut oil then spread onto your face under your eyes where your sinuses are located. You can also put some under your nose and inhale. Another good place to apply the oil is your throat or chest. If you don’t want to apply the oils topically, you can simply hold one nostril closed and take a deep breath with the open bottle up to your nose then do the same to the other nostril

essential oils

4. Tackle a Headache or Soreness

Sickness is often accompanied by sore muscles and headache. These are my go-to headache and soreness relievers.

  • Apply peppermint essential oil to ease headaches and tension. Mix about 10-15 drops of peppermint essential oil into a small jar with about one-quarter of a cup of coconut oil (alternatively you could mix a drop or two with a small amount of coconut oil in your hand). Lightly dab your finger into the jar and apply the mixture onto your forehead, temples and at the back of the neck. For added benefit, gently massage your temples. Peppermint can be quite strong so don’t be surprised if your eyes water a little. Peppermint is also good for sore muscles so apply wherever soreness or stiffness is present for relief of that as well.
  • Stretch. Soreness and headache can be brought on by stiff muscles as well so doing some simple neck and back stretches can help ease the pain as well.
  • Use a foam Roller. I recently got a foam roller and have used it to ease tension in my neck and back. To use it, place it on the floor and lower yourself on top of it so that it sits on your lower back. Use your feet to push yourself over the roller so that it goes up and down your back. There are lots of other uses for foam rollers as well as exercises but so far this has been the main way I have used mine. You can get one fairly inexpensively at places like Target.
  • Use Lavender to soothe soreness. Lavender essential oil is not only good for stress relief, it’s also good for soothing soreness and tenderness from cuts or abrasions. The skin on my nose has become raw and irritated from using so many tissues to blow my nose (I’m pretty sure I have gone through a box and a half in three days!) so I have put my lavender to good use. To use, do the same thing I described above with peppermint, except apply it wherever you need to soothe your rough skin.


5. Keep Up Healthy Habits

It is especially important when sickness is looming or already upon you to keep up some good habits. Here are the main ones that I am working on.

  • Get plenty of water! Drinking a lot of water is essential to optimal health but is even more important when you’re sick. For added benefit, add a drop or two of lemon essential oil (be sure that it is the kind of oil allowed for internal use) to your water. If you’re adding essential oil, also make sure you’re using a glass cup or glass water bottle.
  • Get adequate rest. Getting enough sleep is necessary to proper functioning. I’ve had lots of struggles getting good rest due to some other physical concerns but I notice such a difference in my overall health when I am able to sleep well.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet and all the more important to help with treating or preventing illness. If you need to get more in your diet, try drinking more smoothies and looking for other ways to consume them more often. Try this chicken fried rice for a vegetable packed dinner as a way to get more veggies.

So the next time you feel like you might be getting sick, try out some of these tips before you automatically reach for the drugs in your medicine cabinet.

The list above isn’t an exhaustive list, rather some ideas based on what I have done. So I would love to know…

What are some ways that you treat or prevent illness naturally?

Do you do any of the things listed above?

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Mar 122014

Banana Nut Baked Oatmeal - Joyful Thrifty Home

I have never been a huge fan of oatmeal. I just don’t care for the slimy glue like texture that seems to seems result in cooking it the traditional way. On top of that, I always had to add lots of extra sugar just to make it palatable. However, my whole outlook on oatmeal changed when I discovered the wonders of baked oatmeal. If you have never had baked oatmeal or need some convincing to give a try, here’s my top five reasons why  you should love baked oatmeal.

Top Five Reasons to Love Baked Oatmeal
  1. It’s easy to prepare. You can even throw it together the night before and bake it in the morning.
  2. It makes great leftovers. Just re-heat and enjoy!
  3. It isn’t slimy like a regular bowl of oatmeal. Plus, if you like your oatmeal a little less dense, all you have to do is stir in some milk.
  4. It’s a healthy and satisfying breakfast. Baking the oatmeal with fruit and spices helps meld the flavors throughout, so no more dumping tons of sugar in your oatmeal just to make you want to eat it.
  5. It tastes delicious!

Alright, so now that you are convinced, let’s talk about this fabulous recipe for banana nut baked oatmeal.

I don’t know if you are like me but I buy bananas almost every week so I usually have some on hand. However, this can also mean that if I am not able to eat them before they turn too brown, I end up putting them in the freezer with the intention of using them for baking.

Guess how many bananas I have in my freezer? I have no clue either, but I will tell you that it’s a lot, enough to get my husband to tell me (more than once) that I need to start using them up before they take over all of our freezer space.

So when a friend of mine posted this recipe for banana peanut butter baked oatmeal, the wheels in my head started turning. I looked up a few other recipes and got to work on crafting a new version. I decided I would forgo the peanut butter but I love anything with banana and walnuts so my version of banana nut baked oatmeal was born. The finished product tastes like banana bread but it’s much healthier since it’s flour-less and uses a lot less sugar.

Banana Nut Baked Oatmeal

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 9 servings

Serving Size: 1 square

Author: Ashley l

Banana Nut Baked Oatmeal

This banana nut baked oatmeal tastes just like banana bread but without the flour and extra sugar!


  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax or chia (or blend of both)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 medium bananas, mashed
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • banana slices and additional milk (optional)


  1. Combine oats, brown sugar, flax, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, combine mashed bananas, coconut oil, butter, egg, milk and vanilla.
  3. Stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until well combined.
  4. Stir in chopped walnuts.
  5. Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish. Pour oatmeal into the dish and spread evenly.
  6. Place in a 350° oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cut into squares and serve with banana slices and additional milk if desired.


If you want to make up the oatmeal the night before and bake it in the morning, just cover the unbaked oatmeal and place in the fridge until you are ready to bake.

This baked oatmeal stays together more like oatmeal bars. However, you can easily add a little milk into a bowl of crumbled pieces of the oatmeal if you would rather eat more like cereal.

What is your favorite breakfast food?

What is your favorite way to enjoy oatmeal?

Buy Real Food for the Real Homemaker!

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Mar 062014

Pressing On - Joyful Thrifty Home

Do you ever have those days where you just want to crawl back into bed and avoid it? I’ve had some of those lately. If you remember from my first Rest for the Weary post you know that I’ve been struggling a lot. Since I wrote that post, I was feeling like things were looking up but as it turned out that wasn’t quite the case.

Suffice it to say that trying to sort through the mess that is life has not been an easy journey for me lately. That being said, I have had some glimpses of God showing me grace and light among some stressful and confusing times. I can’t say that I don’t ever wonder why this or why that, but I am grateful that he is always there gently showing me the way.

One way he has showed me this is through the support of friends and family. It amazes me how a conversation with a friend, even one whom I only know online can brighten my day, or how a good talk with my husband can help me see things in a new perspective. I am constantly reminded that though I don’t always understand why some things work out a certain way, I am not in this alone.

The other way that I have been encouraged lately is through music. Sometimes I like to listen to piano music of old hymns and just let the music bring me some sense of peace. Other times I listen to worship music and am reminded of God’s goodness and love. Then there are the days I need a good anthem, something that I can’t listen to without smiling and wanting to dance. Some of my favorites are from Mandisa and Natalie Grant. So I know if I need a good pick-me-up that I can find it through their music. They both have so many uplifting and encouraging songs and I love that they are also filled with truth.

I heard the song called Press On by Mandisa in a new way today so I wanted to share it with you as an encouragement that he is with you whatever you are going through. Just keep pressing on, one step at a time.

I love the truths in the lyrics here:

How many storms have I been through
How many led me right to You
You’re using the pain, the hardest days
For my good, my good
So what do I fear
God, You are with me
Guiding my steps today
Through the mountains, valleys, sun and rain
Lord, lead the way, lead the way

These are the truths that I am clinging to today. So be encouraged because these truths are for you too!

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Feb 052014

Dessert for Two Chocolate Lava Cakes - Joyful Thrifty Home

Calling all chocolate lovers…you do not want to miss this simple yet decadent dessert! It’s actually so simple you might just whip up a batch whenever a chocolate craving strikes, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Not that I would ever make chocolate cake in the middle of the afternoon just because it sounded good, oh wait…moving on.

Most chocolate lava cake recipes I have seen make anywhere from four to six cakes, but I thought it seemed rather dangerous, or um, tempting to have that many lying around so I figured out how to make a recipe that only makes two. Feel free to double the recipe if you need (or want) to make more than two.

Since the recipe makes two small cakes, it also makes a great dessert for a special date night at home. Valentines Day is coming up soon…hint, hint. You can even make it up to a day in advance and bake it while you’re eating dinner so it’s ready just in time for dessert.

Another feature of this recipe that is slightly different from others is the hint of mocha flavor you get by adding instant coffee. I like adding it to chocolate desserts because it gives it a bit of a different depth to the flavor that I enjoy. If you don’t have any instant coffee or would rather not put it in, then just leave it out.

One last tip about lava cakes: It may take some practice at figuring out the perfect amount of time to cook the cakes depending on your oven or other factors. They are supposed to be slightly gooey on the inside, hence lava cake, but it should be mostly set all the way around. It’s fine if it is a bit too gooey, it’s just not ideal. The opened cake in the picture above could have probably used another minute or so of cooking time, but it was still delicious anyway. If you over cook it a little, you will still have a nice chocolate cake but it might not be very lava-like. So don’t fret too much about getting it right the first time. It just gives you a good excuse to try it again!

Chocolate Lava Cakes

Yield: 2 cakes

Serving Size: 1 cake

Author: Ashley l

Chocolate Lava Cakes

Chocolate lava cakes are a simple and decadent dessert for two.


  • coconut oil or butter for greasing
  • cocoa powder for dusting
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup semi sweet or milk chocolate chips (or a combination of both)
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee powder (optional)
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour (all purpose or white whole wheat)
  • powdered sugar, whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and/or berries for topping (optional)


  1. Grease two 3-1/2 inch custard cups or ramekins with butter or coconut oil. Lightly dust with cocoa powder. Place on a baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter in microwave or a small sauce pan on the stove. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips. Stir until melted. Heat for a few seconds longer if needed to completely melt the chocolate. Add coffee powder if desired and stir. Set aside.
  3. In a separate small bowl, whisk egg and yolk. Add powdered sugar and continue to whisk until well combined. Add chocolate and flour. Stir until well combined, but do not over-mix.
  4. Evenly divide batter among custard cups or ramekins. Bake at 450° for 12-14 minutes. The top of each cake will puff and be slightly cracked. Do not over-bake. The centers are supposed to be slightly gooey.
  5. Let sit for a few minutes then place a small plate on top of ramekin. Flip the cake onto the plate using an oven mitt as the ramekin will still be very hot. Top with any desired toppings (powdered sugar, whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, berries).
  6. Serve and enjoy!


Tip: To make ahead, do everything except bake the cakes. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Cakes may take 1 or 2 minutes longer to bake as they will be cold.

Don’t forget to check out my homemade pasta sauce and meatball recipes to make for dinner along with your dessert.

What is your favorite dessert to make (or eat) for a special date night?

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Feb 042014

Spaghetti and Meatballs with Homemade Pasta Sauce - Joyful Thrifty Home

I love Italian food, especially for date nights. There’s just something romantic about it to me. I also love how many Italian dishes are made simple yet elegant. That’s why I like making spaghetti and meatballs for special dates with my husband. Spaghetti with meatballs might not seem like the most romantic of meals to you but it’s easy to make it more special when candles, dessert and a glass of wine is involved.

Spaghetti and meatballs with homemade pasta sauce is actually one of the first big meals I made for my husband as a special date night. It was our first anniversary so I was still in the learning stage of cooking but it was easy enough and turned out well. For that particular date, I also tried my hand at making my favorite Italian dessert from scratch, tiramisu. It was the perfect complement to the meal. Since then I have also made chocolate lava cakes as the dessert which is a much easier yet equally satisfying dessert for a special date.

The best part about these recipes are that they are easy to make and can even be made ahead of time so you don’t have to slave in the kitchen all day before you serve it. You’ll probably even have leftovers that you can freeze and use for another date or for a different meal. There are plenty of uses for pasta sauce and the meatballs also make good subs.

A Few Notes:

  • The recipe for the sauce below give directions for making it in a slow cooker. Though it takes a long time, this is really the easiest and most hands free way to make it. However, you can also make it in a Dutch oven or large pot on the stove but you will need to keep an eye on it as it cooks. When cooking this way, dump all the ingredients in the pot and let come to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn heat down slightly and let simmer for 30-45 minutes or as long as desired. I’ve let it cook for as long as one to two hours while I was working on preparing other parts of the meal.
  • When I started using ground turkey, it was as a way to save on meat costs. It’s not the most flavorful meat but it works well when other ingredients are added to give it more flavor. I don’t use it much anymore but I still like it for meatballs or taco meat. If you prefer, you can easily switch it out with ground beef or sausage in the meatball recipe.
  • The kale part of the meatball recipe was actually just an experiment at first because I had some that needed to be used up. I liked it so much that it became a permanent part of the recipe. It’s also great the you get a little extra greens without really even tasting it.

Turkey Kale Meatballs

Yield: about 30 meatballs

Author: Ashley l

Turkey Kale Meatballs

These turkey kale meatballs are a tasty and healthy addition to homemade pasta sauce.


  • 1 lb ground turkey (or ground beef)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried parsley
  • 1 bunch of kale, finely chopped (or about 2-3 cups chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Dump all ingredients into a medium size bowl and mix until well combined.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and put a oven safe cooling rack on top, with legs folded underneath. Lightly grease the rack to keep the meatballs from sticking.
  3. To make each meatball: Use a cookie scoop or spoon, scoop out about a tablespoon of mixture and roll in your hands to form a ball. Place each meatball on top of the rack.
  4. Bake at 400° for 20-30 minutes or until meatballs are lightly browned and thoroughly cooked.


Meatballs cook better on a rack because it allows them to become crisper all the way around while allowing any excess grease to drip underneath. If you don't have a rack, just place on a baking sheet and flip half way through cooking.

Homemade Pasta Sauce

Homemade Pasta Sauce

Homemade pasta sauce is so easy, tasty and inexpensive that you won't be reaching for that store bought stuff anymore.


  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes - do not drain
  • 2 cans (15 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups of chopped fresh vegetables (any combination of mushrooms, bell pepper, zucchini would work well) - Optional


  1. Cook onions in in a skillet over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so.
  2. Place all ingredients into a large slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.


This recipe easily doubles and makes a great sauce for a variety of meals. Freeze extras for up to four months.

Once you’ve made your meatballs and pasta sauce, serve over your choice of pasta. Another great addition to the meal would be a salad and fresh bread. Don’t forget the dessert!

What is your favorite meal to make (or eat) for a special date night?

Do you have a favorite dessert to go with it?

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Jan 312014

Rest for the Weary My Struggle with Rest

Do you ever feel tired and worn out? So tired that you struggle to muster up the strength just to get out of bed in the morning. So worn out that simple tasks feel like enormous chores. So completely exhausted that it is hard even to think coherently. In a nutshell,  you feel weary to the point of being physically, mentally and spiritually drained.

There could be many reasons for feeling like this. You might have a lot of responsibilities piling up making it seem impossible to ever see the end of your mile long to do list. You might be trying to navigate a new season in life and are unsure how to figure it all out. You might be dealing with some sort of loss; a dream or maybe even a loved one. You might be struggling through some sort of illness. Or maybe like me, you are simply struggling to get adequate rest.

Whatever the reason you are struggling, I want you to know that there is hope. It might not come in the way you expect, but there is rest for the weary.

My Struggle with Rest

I have shared a few small glimpses into some of my struggles but have been hesitant to go much deeper. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t want it to look like I am fishing for sympathy or if I am just fearful of what others might think. However, I can’t pretend that I am perfect or that everything in my life is perfect. No one is perfect. Everyone has struggles. So if being a little more open about mine can help someone than that is what I want to do. I want to use this as a way to bring hope and encouragement to those of you who need to know that you are not alone.

For the past couple years or so, I have felt increasingly tired and worn out. It has become a major frustration for me because there is no, or at least I thought, tangible reason for it. I simply couldn’t understand why I was unable to get the physical rest I needed…and it seemed to be getting worse.

The Downward Spiral

I often go to bed and wake up feeling even more exhausted. Even if I sleep through the night, I rarely feel well rested. I have constant headaches. Most of the time, my body is so physically tired that I have to force myself just to do simple things like laundry and dishes. Frequently, I am mentally drained to the point of not always being able to think clearly. I even struggle with making time to read my bible or seek the spiritual refreshment my soul needs.

This lack of rest has caused me to fall downward into and vicious cycle. I am not eating regular meals, causing my body to not get the proper nourishment it needs which exacerbates many of my physical symptoms. Inefficient sleep and nourishment also contribute to a lack of mental clarity. Neglecting to make time to read my bible and pray leaves me feeling spiritually dry. Also, because I feel so exhausted, it is hard to keep up with a normal routine. I pour what little energy I have  into keeping my home clean and dinner made for my husband but other than that I struggle to find the motivation to do much of anything.

The Breaking Point

About a month or so ago, I came to a breaking point. It had gotten so bad that I was anxious just to go to sleep at night for fear of what I would feel like in the morning. I felt so physically, mentally and spiritually drained that I began to give in to the lies that made me feel isolated and alone. I felt like I was fighting a losing battle and the strength to keep fighting it on my own was dwindling.

At one point, I laid in bed in tears unable to express to my husband what was wrong. I just didn’t have the words to explain it. He knew I wasn’t sleeping well, but for the most part I tried to hide the toll it was taking on me. Finally, I drifted off to sleep praying that God would show me a way out of this dark period of exhaustion.

Restoration and Healing

As I began to wake up, I realized that the losing battle was that I was trying to do it alone. The fact was, I could not fight it on my own. It became clear to me that I have people I can turn to who do care about me. More  importantly, I have a God who wants nothing more than for me to look to him for comfort and rest. How had I missed that before?

I felt a sense of peace wash over me and the lies were replaced by a beckoning whisper to come to Him. I began to think of verses that helped bring peace to my weary soul. Specifically Matthew 11:28 that says;

“Come to me who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

The heaviness began to lift and I finally saw hope. Hope that I would not be stuck in this place forever. Hope in knowing I am not alone. Hope that the process of healing could finally begin.

Moving Forward

I can’t say that things have completely turned around but it’s a work in progress. I know I still have a long way to go but I also know that I am not alone and that has made a huge difference. I am working on getting back into a routine and most importantly including regular time in prayer and bible study. Ultimately, I am working on getting myself healthy; physically, mentally and spiritually.

As I work through this process, I want to share more with you about how to find rest when you are weary. So I am working on making this a mini-series. The next part will be about physical rest. Then I will write some more about spiritual rest. Lastly, I will have a list of helpful resources. I sincerely hope that you will find this refreshing and useful.

UPDATE: I still plan to move forward with this series but have come to the realization that God still has things to teach me before I do. I know that I don’t have to have it all figured out to share my story with you but I feel God telling me to wait a little longer. I truly want this series to be beneficial for you and so I don’t want to jump too far ahead and miss something important. Please know that as I wade through the waters of this struggle, I am working to be purposeful in learning the lessons God is teaching me so that I can share it with you in His timing.

Do you ever feel worn out and weary?

What has been most helpful for you to overcome your weariness?

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Jan 282014

Raspberry White Chocolate Scones

One of my favorite flavor combinations is raspberry and white chocolate. Before I gave up store-bought coffee creamer I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a bottle of this flavor when it came out every fall. These flavors are also reminiscent of my first valentines day with my husband because he made me a raspberry white chocolate cheesecake. When I first made these scones, I instantly thought of Valentines Day. The hints of red in the dough from the berries and the delicious combination of flavors make them a perfect Valentines breakfast for you and your loved ones.

Scones are a biscuit like baked good but depending on the particular recipe can have a somewhat differing texture. These scones are a bit different that others I have made because they have a more muffin like consistency. However, I was still very happy with the results and thoroughly enjoyed eating them. I would gladly make them again and again!

I love scones because they are fairly easy to make and can take on a variety of flavors. Other than raspberry white chocolate, I have made cranberry lemon, cinnamon and pumpkin spice scones. I would like to try more scone flavors, maybe a blueberry, chocolate chip or cranberry orange. I think I might even make a plain kind just to use for eating with lemon curd…mmm, that sounds delicious!

Scone Making Tips

  • Scone dough is thick and somewhat dry but should come together without leaving flour in the bowl. So if the dough is too dry to mix, you can add a little more heavy whipping cream, just be careful not to add too much.
  • Scones are typically triangular-shaped but are baked in a circle. Before baking, score the dough by cutting into the proper amount of pieces. When you cut, only slide the knife part way through the dough.
  • Scones also usually have some sort of liquid brushed on the top then sprinkled with coarse sugar. If you don’t have coarse sugar, you can just use regular granulated sugar instead.

Raspberry White Chocolate Scones

Author: Ashley l

Adapted: Recipe from Betty Crocker

Raspberry White Chocolate Scones

Scones are a biscuit like baked good that usually have different kinds of add ins. These scones are made with raspberries and white chocolate chips.


  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (or substitute such as raw sugar)
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries (do NOT thaw)
  • 2/3 cup white chocolate chips
  • additional whipping cream
  • coarse sugar


  1. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add chunks of butter. Use a pastry blender to combine butter with dry ingredients. If you don't have a pasty blender, use two knives and "cut in" butter by slicing the knives in opposing directions through the mixture. The mixture should look like course crumbs when thoroughly combined.
  2. Add egg, almond extract and whipping cream to the bowl. Mix with rubber spatula just until batter is moist.
  3. Stir in raspberries and white chocolate chips. If necessary, you may add a little more whipping cream, one tablespoon or so at a time, if the batter is still too dry. It is normal for the batter to be quite thick.
  4. In the bowl, form batter into a ball then dump out onto an un-greased cookie sheet. Pat dough down so that it becomes an approximately 8 inch circle. Score the dough into eight pieces. When cutting, do not call all the way to the bottom, but just enough to differentiate between each piece.
  5. Pour a little whipping cream into a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the dough with the cream. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  6. Place in the oven and bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes or until it reaches a light golden brown color.
  7. Carefully separate the dough wedges and place on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm.

What is your favorite kind of scone or baked good?

What other scone flavors would you like to try?

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Jan 172014

Apple Butter Recipe

The first time I remember having apple butter was on freshly baked bread at a restaurant in an area populated by many Amish. So when I think about it I picture sitting in a cute little country kitchen. I have had apple butter from the store but it just is not the same. So since I started making more things from scratch I have wanted to try making it myself.

I was happy to find this apple butter recipe in my new cookbook. I was also glad to find that it was quite easy to make. The most labor intensive part of the process is pealing all the apples. Other than that, it is mostly just letting it cook until it’s thickened. Here are some photos to give you an idea of how the apples change during the process. I was happy with how it turned out and it gets two thumbs up from my husband who is a big fan of apple butter.

Apple Butter Steps

For this recipe you will just need some apples, spices, brown sugar and apple juice. You can cook it in a dutch oven or slow cooker. Directions for either are given below. 

Apple Butter

Author: Ashley l

Adapted: Recipe from Betty Crocker

Apple Butter

Apple butter is like apple sauce but thicker and has a bit of a different spice with the addition of allspice and clove.


  • 3-4 lbs of apples (tart apples like Granny Smith are best)
  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1-1/4 cups apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


  1. Peel all the apples then cut into quarters or use an [apple corer-slicer.
  2. Place apples into a 4 quart or larger Dutch oven. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and apple juice to the pot. Mix until combined.
  3. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until liquid begins to boil.
  4. Cover and reduce to low-medium heat then simmer for one hour.
  5. Remove lid and mash apples with a potato masher or fork until no large chunks remain.
  6. Continue to simmer uncovered for about another hour, or until mixture is very thick.
  7. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about two hours.
  8. Transfer to a jar and store in the fridge.


To Make in a Slow Cooker: Add all ingredients as directed above except decrease apple juice to 1/2 cup. Cook covered on low for 8 to 10 hours. Remove lid and mash apples. Cook uncovered for another 1 to 2 hours or until thickened. Stir occasionally during this time.

My favorite use for apple butter is spread on homemade bread. Of course, you can put it on any kind of bread but there is something delightful about homemade apple butter on fresh warm bread. I made up a batch of wheat bread in my bread machine specifically to eat with this apple butter. I’ve enjoyed lightly toasting a piece of bread then spreading some apple butter on it for breakfast. I do love putting it on bread but I wasn’t sure what else to do with it.

Uses for Apple Butter

So what do you do with all that apple butter? Since my ideas were limited, I searched the internet and asked around for some more ideas. Once I got going I came up with a few more on my own as well. Here’s what I came up with…

  • Use it as a topping for waffles, pancakes, french toast, biscuits, muffins, scones…you get the idea. Here’s a recipe for sourdough pancakes that use apple butter.
  • Mix it in your morning oatmeal.
  • Spread it in a piece of toast.
  • Warm it up a little and put a dollop on vanilla ice cream for a special treat. Maybe even add a little caramel sauce.
  • Put it on pork chops.
  • Use it as a part of the filling for cinnamon rolls.
  • Use it as filling for a homemade pop-tart or other kind of pastry.
  • Use as a glaze or in a marinade for chicken or other kind of meat.
  • Mix with squash or sweet potatoes. Bake or mash the potato/squash then add some of the apple butter.
  • Use it as a fruit dip.
  • Use it to replace oil in baked goods like you would applesauce. Here’s my mocha muffin recipe that uses applesauce instead of oil.
  • Ever heard of grilled cheese with apples? One suggestion I found said to spread it on quality bread with sharp cheddar and grill it.
  • There were actually many mentions of mixing it with cottage cheese.
  • You could also mix it with yogurt.
  • Spread it on the bottom of a tart crust and top with fruit before baking.
  • Mix it with some cream cheese for a new kind of bagel or cracker spread.
  • Use it to make a vinaigrette dressing. Drizzle on a salad with some brie and walnuts or pecans.
  • Add some to your apple pie filling.
  • Spread it in your breakfast sandwich with egg, ham and cheese.
  • Use it as a layer in a coffee cake.
  • Use it as a dip for sweet potato fries.
  • Use it as a crêpe filling.
  • Mix it with some peanut butter and then use as a spread.
  • Mix it with a little milk or cream and granola then heat it up before eating. You could even add some chopped nuts and dried fruit. Walnuts and cranberries would be a good combination. This would be like oatmeal but with more of a crunch.
  • Use it instead of brown sugar in a barbecue sauce recipe.
  • Add it to bread pudding.
  • Put it in a sweet potato casserole.
  • Just eat with a spoon out of the jar!
  • For a different twist on apple butter, check out this recipe for cranberry apple butter.

Free Printable Jar Labels

As a special treat, I created a set of jar labels for you to use with your apple butter. There are blank labels provided so that you can use them for other things too. Just write on the label what’s inside! Print your labels by clicking the sample picture and then cut them out. The labels can be use many ways. As you see below, you can tie it around the jar or use it on the lid. I printed these in card-stock.  The jar I used was just the right size to fit one full batch, but you could easily split it up into smaller jars if you are using it as gifts.

Apple Butter Labels

Apple Butter Labels - Sample

Here’s an example of what the page will look like. You can also print my clicking the sample image. As usual, feel free to print as many as you would like but please use them for personal purposes only. So don’t sell the design or anything made with the design. Thank you and enjoy!

What are your favorite uses for apple butter?

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Jan 152014

My Favorite Healthy Snack Ideas and Smoothie Recipe - Joyful Thrifty Home

One of my goals for the new year is to eat better and have healthier food options available. I know that good snacks that help to fuel energy are crucial for me as I often struggle with fatigue. I know that this time of year many other people are thinking about getting healthy and exercise so I wanted to share with you some of my favorite healthy snack ideas. These would all be great for a quick energizing snack before or after a workout too!

Healthy Smoothies

Smoothies are a great way to get lots of vitamins and nutrients. I love this energizing green smoothie because it’s easy to make and helps keep me going. It’s packed with good ingredients like spinach. I think spinach is the best ingredient for green smoothies because it blends right in with the other ingredients. If it weren’t for the green color you probably wouldn’t even know it was there.

My favorite flavor combination is orange, strawberry and banana. The other ingredients are there just to add extra nutrients or other benefits but the fruit is where most of the flavor will come from. You can easily mix up the fruit you use to suit your tastes.

I do sometimes use protein powder, but I started using it before I switched to a more whole foods diet. I haven’t decided if I will continue to use it after I am out of what I have. This smoothie still has protein because of the Greek yogurt and lots of other benefits in the other ingredients so the powder is not necessary but go ahead and use it if would like or just leave it out.

The last time I made this smoothie I was struggling all day just to do anything because of fatigue but once I got some of this in me I began to feel much more alert and energized. This is why I call it the energizing green smoothie!

Energizing Green Smoothie

Yield: 1 serving

Author: Ashley l

Energizing Green Smoothie


  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 to 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax or chia (or a blend of both)
  • 1 scoop (about 2 tablespoons) vanilla protein powder (optional)
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries (or other frozen fruit)


  1. Place orange juice in blender. Pack with as much spinach as will fit (up to two cups). Add flax and protein powder then blend until liquefied.
  2. Add yogurt and fruit then blend again until everything is well combined.


Feel free to change the juice to another liquid (water, milk, a different kind of juice). You can also use any other type of fruit. Frozen is used in the recipe to give it a thicker consistency. If using fresh, add some ice.

I like making smoothies for a quick snack or light meal. It is especially easy because I use a cup attachment for my blender so I can drink it right from the container it gets blended in. Aside from smoothies, I also like to make sure I have other easy snacks available so I put together this list of six more snack ideas for you.

6 More Easy and Energizing Healthy Snack Ideas

I like to have at least a few options on hand for easy snacks so that I have something for when the midday slump hits. I don’t snack everyday but it’s nice to know something is there if I need it. I also use some of these for a quick lunch. For example, if I have hummus, I will make up some pita chips and put them on a plate with red pepper and carrots to use for dipping.

  • Trail Mix: My favorite easy snack is mixing about a handful of each; raw whole almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries and white chocolate chips. It’s super easy and so much cheaper than buying a pre-made trail mix.
  • Roasted Almonds: You can find lightly salted and roasted almonds in the grocery store or buy a bag of raw almonds and roast them yourself.
  • Homemade Granola Bars: Many store-bought granola bars have a lot of sugar and other ingredients that are far from healthy. I like making my own so I know what’s in them plus I can customize them to my taste preferences. If you would rather buy them, make sure they are not filled with a bunch of junk. I like Kind and Clif bars. I also want to try Larabars (or figure out how to make my own).
  • Hard Boiled Eggs: Eggs are a good source of protein (and they’re cheap!) so cook up some eggs and store them in the fridge for an easy grab and go snack.
  • Apple or Banana with Peanut Butter: Fruit is an easy snack. Amp it up a little by spreading some peanut butter in it.
  • Red Pepper Strips with Hummus: I have become a huge fan of red peppers. They are packed with vitamins, antioxidants and have a host of other health benefits, so I use them wherever I can in my recipes. One easy way I like eating them is cut into strips and dipped in hummus. You can make hummus but I typically just buy it on sale at Meijer or from Aldi.

These are just a few ideas for healthier snacks so I would love to know…

What are your favorite smoothie ingredients?

What are your favorite easy and healthy snacks? 


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