ROMERO CHICKEN, BACON, AND AVOCADO SALAD

As the days start to warm up those outdoor barbeques are just around the corner, and what comes after barbeques leftovers yum! Steak, chicken, or shrimp now matter what you grill always left some for making a great salad for lunch the next day. This is a great recipe from http://www.howsweeteats.com for a chicken, bacon, and avocado salad and if you need more step by step video link below:

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 6 cups spring greens and/or butter lettuce
  • 1 bunch watercress
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large avocado, thinly sliced

ROSEMARY VINAIGRETTE 

  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS 

  • Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the bacon. Cook until it’s crispy and the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon and place it on a paper towel to drain any excess grease.
  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cover with the rosemary. In the same skillet, over medium-high heat, add the chicken and cook until golden and crisp on both sides, about 5 to 6 minutes per side. Remove the chicken and let sit for a moment while you assemble the salad, then slice it.
  • Toss the greens with the watercress and the tomatoes. Top with the sliced chicken, the bacon and the avocado. Drizzle with the rosemary vinaigrette!

ROSEMARY VINAIGRETTE

  • Whisk together the mustard, oil and vinegar. Whisk in the rosemary and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Sourdough Dessert Recipes

When I first heard using sourdough starter for other recipes aside from sourdough bread I was abit confused worried things would just taste like sourdough? To my surprise not the case at all, so here are a few dessert recipes to start out with from our friends at http://www.culturesforhealth.com:

https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/sourdough-brownies/

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces baking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup butter or coconut oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh sourdough starter

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat. Pour in hot water and combine thoroughly.
  2. Stir in baking soda until the mixture is foamy. Set aside and cool until lukewarm. (It is important the mixture not be too hot.)
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs and mix well; add vanilla, chocolate mixture, and nuts.
  5. Gently add flour and salt.
  6. Add the sourdough starter. Mix to just combine; do not over-mix.
  7. Pour into a greased 9×13-inch pan. Let rise in a warm spot (70°-85°F) for approximately 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake brownies 35-40 minutes. Cool and serve.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cdiced apples (preferably a firm variety such as granny smith)
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1-2 cups coconut oil, sunflower oil, for frying

Directions:

  1. Place diced apples in a large bowl. Pour in sourdough starter slowly, mixing it into the diced apples as you go. The starter should envelop the apples but still remain thick. If this hasn’t yet been achieved, add a bit more sourdough starter.
  2. Sprinkle in salt, cinnamon, and baking soda, and mix to combine. Allow mixture to rise a bit while heating the fat in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Gently drop large tablespoons of batter into fat. Fry for approximately 3 minutes per side until golden. Flip and fry another 3 minutes or until golden.
  4. Remove to a platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar or drizzle with honey or maple syrup.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fresh sourdough starter
  • 1/2 cup apple butter recipe below
  • 1/2 cup fresh, whole milk or non-dairy alternative
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 egg or flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 1-1/2 cups sifted whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions:

  1. Line 12 to 14 muffin cups with paper liners. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Mix sourdough starter, apple butter, and milk in a large bowl. Stir in honey, egg, and melted butter.
  3. In a separate bowl stir together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Pour over sourdough mixture and stir just until blended. Fold in chopped nuts. Do not over-mix.
  4. Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes, until tops are firm and golden brown. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.
  5. Serve warm with butter and additional apple butter for spreading. These are best served the same day they are made, but they freeze well for longer storage.

LACTO-FERMENTED DRIED-APPLE BUTTER

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups dried apples
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 cup whey or water kefir
  • 1/2 cup raw honey

Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat, cook apples in enough water to cover until they are soft. When they have cooked sufficiently, drain and cool.
  2. Process cooled apples in a food processor, along with the remaining ingredients, until smooth.
  3. Pour apple butter into glass jars, leaving 1 inch headspace.
  4. Cover the jar with a tight lid, airlock lid, or coffee filter secured with a rubber band.
  5. Culture at room temperature (60-70°F is preferred) until desired flavor is achieved, about 1-2 days.
  6. If using a tight lid, burp daily to release excess pressure.
  7. Once the apple butter is finished, put a tight lid on the jar and move to cold storage.

Easiest Sourdough Starter To Care For

I was always scared to care for a sourdough starter sounded very complicated but I found soudoughsister and the fear is gone. It’s the easiest starter to care for and use for all your delicious recipes for breads, desserts, pancakes, etc. Just prep the starter the nigh before 5 mins and the next day you are ready to work on your dough! Sourdoughsisters has a great offer for $20 you get a starter, series of 5 live zooms, and a digital recipe! Email at sourdoughsister22@gmail.com for more info and a calendar of classes or check out http://www.instagram.com/sourdough.sister:

French Baguette Recipes

French baguette anyone, it goes great with everything cheese, cold cuts, all types of spread and of course who doesn’t love a french baguette pizza! Lucky for everyone there are so many good recipes out there to try just check which you prefer to use yeast or sourdough starter? And of course making your own baguette means you can customize as well which is always a plus. We have two recipes here simple sourdough baguette and a yeast french baguette try them out:

Ingredients:

  • 500 g all purpose flour King Arthur brand is recommended about 3 1/2 cups
  • 360 g water about 1 1/2 cups + 1 Tbsp
  • 10 g salt about 2 tsp
  • 3 g instant yeast about 1 tsp; also known as Quick Rise or Rapid Rise yeast
  • 25 g honey about 1 Tbsp

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl, cover with a plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
  2. Over a period of 1 1/2 hours, do 3 sets of stretch and folds, flipping the dough upside down after each set.
  3. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight for about 12-14 hours.
  4. Turn the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 3 equal parts and shape into rectangles. Cover and let rest for 45-60 minutes.
  5. Starting preheating the oven to 500F, with a baking stone positioned in the upper half the oven and a bread pan filled with hot water on the bottom rack.
  6. Stretch each dough rectangle slightly and fold into a cylinder, sealing the seams. Using your hands, roll the cylinders gently stretching them to desired length, about 14-15 inches.
  7. Place on a lightly floured couche, seam side up. Cover and proof at a room temperature for about 30-60 minutes, or until the dough has sufficiently proofed.
  8. Transfer the baguettes to a piece of parchment paper, seam side down and dust off excess flour. Using a bread lame, a sharp knife or a razor blade, make 3 scores on each baguette. When scoring, use a swift and firm motion to ensure nice and clean cuts.
  9. Open the oven, taking caution not to get burned by steam, and slide the baguettes off onto the baking stone. Close the oven and reduce temperature to 475F. Bake for 15 minutes.
  10. Remove the water pan, rotate the baguettes, drop the temperature to 450F and continue baking for another 15 minutes or until deep golden brown.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well.
  2. Sprinkle just a couple of tablespoons of flour onto a work surface and knead the dough slightly. It should be a little sticky; avoid adding too much flour to it while kneading.
  3. Form the dough into a ball and cut in half. Form each half into a long baguette shape. Place the formed baguettes onto a baguette pan or a greased cookie sheet.
  4. Cover lightly with a damp towel and let rise until double in size in a warm place, 3-6 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 425°F. Bake baguettes 15 minutes, or until golden-brown.
  6. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes and serve.

Addtional Ingredients:

Herbs

Olives

Oven Roasted Garlic

Sundried Tomatoes

Cheese

Mexican Chocolate Biscotti

Hello all you biscotti lovers here are two more recipes to have enough choices for coffee dates at home! And of course we have recipes from Martha so we can’t go wrong. Also don’t forget if you want to make the recipe vegan swap out eggs for flaxseeds and chocolate needs to be vegan friendly:

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, cayenne, cinnamon, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Add bittersweet chocolate and beat until combined.
  2. Divide dough in half and transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Form each half into a 2 1/2-inch-wide, 3/4-inch-tall log. Bake until dough is firm but gives slightly when pressed, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let cool on sheet on a wire rack, 20 minutes.
  3. With a serrated knife, cut logs into 1/4-inch slices on the diagonal and arrange, cut side down, on two parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. Bake until biscotti are crisp and golden, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets and flipping biscotti halfway through. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Almond Biscotti

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Add almonds and beat until combined.
  2. Divide dough in half and transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Form each half into a 2 1/2-inch-wide, 3/4-inch-tall log. Bake until dough is firm but gives slightly when pressed, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let cool on sheet on a wire rack, 20 minutes.
  3. With a serrated knife, cut logs into 1/4-inch slices on the diagonal and arrange, cut side down, on 2 parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. Bake until biscotti are crisp and golden, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets and flipping biscotti halfway through. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

3 Pro Budgeting Tips for People Who Wonder Where Every Paycheck Goes

Money is something we all need to live but not something we all have tons of! If you are having a hard time budgeting here are some helpful tips to help out from http://www.pennyhoarder.com! Budgeting is key especially with the time period we are in let’s hope a tax refund is coming everyone way:

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13 Budgeting Tips Anyone Can Follow

Whether you’re trying to pay off credit card debt or just boost your savings, here are some budgeting tips that will help you make (and stick to) your budget.

1. Set Your Goals Before You Make Your Budget

Without a goal, a budget is just a spreadsheet that tells you to have less fun.

Think about what you want in the next five to 10 years, and figure out what financial situation you need to get there. Whatever your goals are, know that any sound financial foundation starts with an emergency fund.

You might then want to pay off debt, save for a down payment on a home, or increase your savings.

Decide where you want to be financially next year and the year after. Knowing what you want to do with your money will guide you as you figure out how to budget, and it will greatly increase the likelihood that you’ll stick to it.

2. There’s No One Size-Fits-All Budget. Find a Plan That Works for You

There are so many budgeting methods out there, and every guru says theirs is the best. But ultimately you have to choose the one that works for you.

If you’ve got an ambitious goal, we recommend trying a zero-based budget first.

To make a zero-based budget, start by prioritizing your expenses from essential to nonessential. Then, assign every dollar in your paycheck a “job” on the list until you run out.

The most important things — housing, food, minimum debt payments — get taken care of first, and you can disburse the remaining money for your goals and fun in their order of importance to you.

Zero-based budgeting is great for Type A planners. If you prefer to be a little more loosey-goosey, a 50/20/30 budget is a great option. With this approach, you don’t have to think too much about your expenses. You just allocate 50% of your income to your needs, 20% to savings and 30% to wants.

3. Use a Budgeting App or the Envelope System to Track Your Spending on the Go

A woman creates three different envelopes to control her spending. The envelopes say expenses, savings and fun.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

It’s hard to lug around your laptop or binder to keep up with each budget category, so a budgeting app is a great tool for updating your budget on the go. There are many out there, whether you like to enter each transaction manually or see everything updated automatically.

If your goal is to take an intense look at your spending, manually tracking your transactions is going to work best. Once you’ve been budgeting for a while and you’ve got a grasp on your spending, syncing transactions automatically works fine.

If you still can’t stick to your budget, the envelope system can help you succeed without so much emphasis on constant tracking.

After you decide how much money goes toward each of your expenses, put the money you’ll spend for each expense in a given week into separate envelopes and carry them with you. Once an envelope is empty, you’re done spending in that category. You can keep receipts in the envelope and examine your purchases later.

Envelopes are best for categories you’re prone to overspending on. You probably don’t need envelopes for things like gas and utilities, because you’re not likely to go on a gas-buying spree.

Popular categories for envelopes are restaurants, groceries, clothes and entertainment.

4. Use the Past to Predict Your Future Income and Expenses

Whether you choose a zero-based budget, 50/20/30 budget or some other method, you’re going to have to calculate your income and the amount of money you want to put toward every category or individual expense.

Salaried employees will get off easy when they calculate their incomes. If you have a variable income or side hustles, you’ll need to do some digging.

Look back at your income from the past six months, or as far back as you can if you’ve been at your current job for less time. Then find your average monthly income and the average amount of each paycheck.

Expenses like utilities can also be unpredictable. Check your online statements to see which months were higher versus which were lower so you can make future budgets. You may not be able to take that impromptu weekend getaway the month your electric bill will be $300, but it might be totally feasible during a month it’s going to be $75.

5. Make a Monthly Budget AND a Budget for Each Paycheck

Since most bills are monthly, it’s important to make a budget for the entire month to get a clear picture of everything due. But by breaking that down further into paycheck-by-paycheck budgets, you can pace your spending so you don’t end up penniless by the 20th.

You can make categories as vague or as specific as you want, but put as many barriers in place to prevent yourself from overspending in the first half of the month.

This is another time when the envelope system helps you, but you could do the same thing with reloadable gift cards for specific stores.

6. Don’t Confuse Infrequent Expenses With Emergencies

These aren’t the unexpected expenses that you’d cover with your miscellaneous or emergency categories. Infrequent expenses are the charges that come up once or twice a year — but we always seem to forget will happen.

Like when it’s Dec. 23 and you’re still not done with your holiday shopping. Who could’ve predicted Christmas would be on Dec. 25 AGAIN?

Examples of infrequent expenses include things like auto insurance, car registration, license renewal, vet visits, car repairs and membership fees.

Keep a chart that includes your semiannual and annual expenses to determine what you need to save every month to cover them. Open a separate checking account or savings account where you put money every month to cover these expenses.

7. Remember the Obvious: You Need to Spend Less

Count this among the budgeting tips no one wants to hear. Once the planning is done, it’s time for the hardest part: sticking to your plan.

If you’re in the habit of spending more than you make, your first priority is to find ways to save money.

We don’t mean you need to find better sales and clip more coupons. As much as we love a good coupon stack, the most important thing you can do is buy and spend less.

Some of our favorite tips to cut spending are:

  • Make a meal plan, and stick to your grocery list.
  • Prep meals on Sundays so you’re less likely to eat out during the week.
  • Opt for free events in your area instead of pricy activities or bars.
  • Try running and body-weight workouts instead of paying for a gym membership.

There are countless ways to save money. Our best tip: Start by slashing expenses that are making a big dent in your budget instead of shaving pennies off already manageable ones.

Do everything you can to resist the temptation to make impulse purchases or spend beyond your budget. An easy way to do this: Leave your credit card at home, and use cash envelopes or a debit card.

8. Use the 30-Day Rule to Stop Impulse Buys

If you still need to curb impulse buying, follow the 30-day rule: When you want to buy something that’s not in your budget, make note of the item in question for next month’s budget and revisit it in 30 days. If you still want it, you can consider buying it if you can afford it.

Online shoppers can use the Icebox Chrome extension that allows you to choose a 30-day “cool off” period before you can buy something.

9. Negotiate Your Bills to Save Money

People often take for granted that what they’re paying for their phone, internet and insurance is what they have to pay. By contacting your providers to negotiate your bills, you could lower your bills once or twice every year.

You can do this yourself by calling all your companies or using a negotiation app like Trim or Empower.

If you’re trying it yourself, be friendly, ask for more than you want, and back down from there. Stop when you feel you’ve reached a good deal. Oh, and be prepared to be on the phone for a while.

10. Remember That Things Will Go Wrong

Student loans and credit cards aren’t paid off overnight. And the perfect budget isn’t made in a day.

Things will change and go wrong. Impulse purchases will be made, and budgets will get obliterated by life’s little surprises. The most important tip for budgeting is to not give up.PRO TIP

If budgeting continues to be difficult, add a small “miscellaneous” category to cover surprise expenses. Make a category to cover all of them, and figure out where to put them later.

When things go wrong, alter your budget to compensate. Move money from one category to another, put less in savings, or try a side hustle to add some wiggle room. And know that sometimes you’ll find yourself ripping up the entire budget and starting again from scratch in the middle of the month.

Eventually, you’ll get this whole budgeting thing down. But it’s going to start with a lot of bumps in the road.

How to Budget on an Inconsistent Income

Living off tips, sales commissions or freelance work can make for a flexible lifestyle, but it also makes it hard to budget.

When you have an inconsistent income, you can follow all the budgeting tips above. But there’s one thing you should add to your budget to make it easier for yourself during low-income months.

11. Have an Income-Sinking Fund for When Your Income Is Less

When you calculate your income and get your monthly average, compare it with your income each month throughout the year. In months you expect to make more than average, take the difference and transfer it to your income-sinking fund. It’s a separate account where you put money you plan to take out in the near future for a specific purpose, such as supplementing your income on low-earning months.

During months when you expect to make less, you can withdraw up to your monthly average to help with expenses.

Budgeting Tips With a Partner

Another challenge is budgeting with a partner. It can feel like too many cooks in the kitchen are ruining the budget soup, but when there are two incomes, lives and futures at stake, everyone involved needs to have a stake in the budget.

12. Hold a Monthly Budget Meeting

The first budgeting tip is to have a monthly meeting that both of you are required to attend.

Whoever enjoys budgeting more can make the budget, but the other partner still has to contribute something. Whether they change one line or many, we repeat: They must contribute.
The budget can still be flexible and change as needed during the month, but both partners should be consulted about big changes. Feeling included is important to working as a team on your finances.

13. ‘Subtle’ Hints Can Help if Your Partner Hates to Budget

If your partner isn’t on board with budgets, they’ll need a little convincing.

Ashley Patrick of Budgets Made Easy tried having budget meetings with her husband, but he wasn’t interested.

Patrick desperately wanted her husband to be part of their financial planning, but he wanted her to handle everything. So she turned to money-saving guru Dave Ramsey’s podcast.

“The biggest thing that fully got him on board was playing Dave Ramsey podcasts in the car, especially when I did it on a long road trip,” she said. “Hours of Dave Ramsey helped change his mindset.”

Both people need to be flexible with the other’s priorities and supportive of their goals.

Budgeting together won’t be easy at first — but it’ll lead to a lifetime of financial strength and happiness.

10 Ways To Save Money On Taxes

That time of the year is here tax time ugh! Time to get all your paperwork together and see where you can catch a break. Check out the recommendations from http://www.pennyhoarders.com:

1. Reduce Your Taxable Income

One surefire way to not pay income tax: Don’t earn any income!

Of course, for most of us, that plan won’t work. Unless you’re independently wealthy (or Bear Grylls-ing it in the woods somewhere), you need money to live on.

But there are ways to reduce your taxable income while still earning a living. 

The easiest way to reduce your taxable income — without throwing in the towel at work, of course — is to contribute to a tax-deferred retirement savings vehicle, like your company’s 401(k) plan.

Wages you defer to a 401(k) don’t count toward your taxable income for the year you make the contribution, though they will be taxed when you make withdrawals later.

That means you’ll get a tax break now… and you’ll be feeding your growing nest egg and setting yourself up for a comfortable retirement. Smart finances all around!

2. Contribute to a Traditional IRA

Woman managing the debt
Getty Images

Even if you already have a retirement savings account at work, like a 401(k) or a 457(b), you can still open and contribute to a traditional IRA (Individual Retirement Account) — you just need to have earned taxable income and not yet have reached age 70 ½.

What Is a Traditional IRA?

Just like that company-sponsored retirement plan we were talking about, the funds you contribute to your IRA don’t count toward your taxable income.

The exception: a Roth IRA, in which contributions are taxed today but then grow tax-free thereafter.

How Much Can You Contribute?

For 2019, you can contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA, or $7,000 if you’re over the age of 50. 

Keep in mind that you have until tax day to max out your contribution for the previous calendar year, so you have until April 15, 2020 to make your 2019 IRA contribution.

An important caveat: If you or your spouse is covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you may not be able to deduct your full IRA contribution or any contribution at all if your income is above a certain amount.

Your specific eligibility will depend on whether you’re filing singly or jointly and whether or not you’re covered by a retirement plan at work; head to the IRS website for full details on these phase-out limits.

3. Consider a Health Savings Account

While IRAs are widely available and applicable to almost everyone, quite a few other investment accounts can get you this same kind of tax break.

What Is a Health Savings Account?

A Health Savings Account (HSA), is a tax-exempt option if your health care plan has a high deductible. Not only are your contributions deductible, but withdrawals aren’t taxed, either, as long as they’re used for qualified medical expenses.

How Much Can You Contribute?

In 2019, you can contribute up to $3,500 to an HSA if you have individual coverage, and up to $7,000 if your high-deductible health care plan (HDHP) covers a family.

And you don’t have to spend it all, either — you can leave funds in your HSA indefinitely since they’re not subject to required minimum distributions. (And if you’re like most of us, you’ll have more health care-related costs as you get older, anyway.)

However, do keep in mind that if you receive Medicare coverage, you might not be eligible to make HSA contributions, since you’ll have coverage outside of your HDHP.

4. Put Your Kids Through College

If you’ve got kids, chances are you’re already gritting your teeth just thinking about paying for college — even if you’re not planning on paying for all of it.

According to U.S. News & World Report, average costs range from $9,716 to $35,676 for a single year of education, so it’s important to get ahead of that bill now.

What Is a 529 Plan?

529 plan is an investment vehicle specifically built for educational savings. You can use it to pay for your kids’ college tuition — or even to send yourself or your spouse to school. The exact tax benefits vary by state, and the contributions aren’t deductible on your federal return.

But more than 30 states offer full or partial tax deduction or credits on 529 contributions, and the funds are allowed to grow tax-free. They won’t be taxed on withdrawal, either, so long as they’re used for qualified educational expenses.

What Expenses Qualify for the 529 Plan?

What qualifies, you ask? College tuition, fees, books and computers all count, and in some cases, it’ll cover room and board.  You can also take out up to $10,000 per year to pay for tuition at private or religious K-12 schools. (That’s $10,000 per beneficiary.)

But if you try to take the money out to pay for red Solo cups, you’ll be subject to regular income tax on the withdrawal, as well as an additional 10% penalty. So keep those noses in the books if you want to keep your own books nice and tidy!

5. Give It Away

Looking for a way to save money on taxes… and get that warm, fuzzy feeling? Charitable donations are tax-deductible, and they can be a great way to lower your overall tax liability if you itemize your deductions.

Itemizing your deductions does take time, however, and not everyone has enough deductions to supersede the standard deduction — which is a fairly hefty $12,200 for single filers and $24,400 for joint filers in 2019.

The easiest way to go about this strategy might be to just write a check to your favorite charity. But if you’re KonMari-ing your life, you can also itemize those trash-bagged Goodwill donations as deductions. (Of course, you will need to say “yes” when the attendant asks if you want a receipt, should you want to do so.)

But Keep the Books

Of course, doing so does mean keeping track of the estimated value of each of those old T-shirts and coffee makers. But lots of tax software includes tools to help you.

For instance, TurboTax’s ItsDeductible module will keep a running tally of your donations year-round, and help you make those value estimations in the first place.

The cans you drop off at the local food bank count, too, as do certain out-of-pocket expenses incurred by volunteering, such as gas and mileage.

You’ll save money while serving your community — what more could you ask of a tax-reduction strategy?

6. Know Your Deductions

You may already know that certain expenses are tax-deductible. But which ones, exactly?

Major medical bills: If you’ve spent more than 10% of your AGI (adjusted gross income) on qualified medical expenses, you may be able to write them off if you itemize your deductions.

Student loan debt interest: Deductible up to $2,500, depending on your income level. This is an “above-the-line” deduction, which means you can take it even if you opt for the standard deduction.

Mortgage interest and local property taxes: These may both be eligible for partial deductions — and if you’re a first-time buyer, you may be able to make penalty-free withdrawals from that IRA we were talking about earlier.

Charitable donations: These have a tax-deductible status, as mentioned above.

Business-related deductions: If you’re a freelancer or you work from home, you should also look into business-related deductions, like the cost of your home office space.

You might also be able to deduct certain supplies, travel expenses, and even meals and entertainment. Here are the full deets on freelancing deductions.

7. Take Advantage of Tax Credits

In certain scenarios, the IRS extends credits to eligible taxpayers — for instance, those pursuing continued education or returning to school.

American Opportunity or Lifetime Learning Credits: Depending on your enrollment status, AGI, and how you’ve paid for educational expenses, you may be entitled to the American Opportunity or Lifetime Learning Credits. (Check out this quick quiz from the IRS, which will tell you if you’re qualified in just 10 minutes.)

Earned Income Tax Credit: If you’re not quite making fat stacks, you might be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a benefit the IRS extends to low-to-moderate earners.

Your credit depends on your exact level of income as well as your marital status and number of dependents. For details, check out the IRS’ Earned Income Tax Credit fact sheet.

The cool thing about tax credits is that they don’t just reduce the amount you’ll pay in income taxes. Rather, they count as an actual reduction of your total tax bill. If the tax credit is refundable, you’ll get a refund if your tax credits exceed what you owe.

So, for instance, if you would have owed $500 and claim $1,000 in tax credits, not only will your payment be waived — you’ll also receive a $500 return.

3 Ways to Save Money on Taxes Today and Tomorrow

While the strategies above are great ways to get ahead of a nasty tax bill this year, taking a proactive approach can help you pay less in taxes every year hereafter. Here are our suggestions.

1. Adjust Your Withholdings.

If you work for an employer, you’ve filed a W-4 — which is the document where you specify how much of your wages should be withheld for taxes.

It might seem intuitive to keep your withholdings as low as possible so you keep more of your paycheck in your pocket. But if you found you owed money in April, you might want to go in and tweak it so you don’t run into the same problem next year.

2. Automate Your Contributions to Those Tax-Deferred Accounts.

Chances are your employer automatically deposits your deferrals into your 401(k). But if you open an IRA, HSA or 529, you’ll have to make contributions manually… and it’s all too easy to forget to do so (or, let’s be honest, spend the money on something else.)

Most account providers will allow you to set up automatic contributions on a regular basis, be it weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. That way, you’ll be sure to add enough funds to the account to significantly lower your tax bill while boosting the savings you’ll use for those qualified expenses down the line.

3. Work for Yourself? Don’t Forget to Pay Your Quarterlies!

Freelancers get a lot of autonomy, but it does come with a substantial drawback: Nobody’s withholding your taxes for you, so you’ve got to pay them yourself.

And if you don’t keep up with your estimated quarterly tax payments — or if you forget about self-employment tax, which adds 15.3% for Social Security and Medicare taxes to the usual 20% — you could be facing a downright scary situation come April.

So funnel about a third of every paycheck you make into a separate account, and label it “PROPERTY OF UNCLE SAM: DO NOT TOUCH.”

Avocado Sweet Potato Tacos

Looking for a new twist on Taco Tuesday Night, here you go not only healthy but you can also make vegan friendly. http://www.loveandlemons.com always has many great recipes so here is another one:

Ingredients

1 medium sweet potato, cubed
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
4 to 6 tortillas, I like these white corn & wheat tortillas, or homemade tortillas
1 cup black beans, cooked, drained, and rinsed
Lime slices, for serving
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Avocado yogurt sauce

1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt***Vegan Recipe Below
1 small avocado
1/2 garlic clove
Juice of 1 lime
Sea salt & fresh black pepper


Optional toppings:

1 small avocado, diced
2 scallions, diced
Crumbled feta or Cotija cheese
Pickled onions
Microgreens or fresh cilantro

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400° F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil, chili powder, salt and pepper, and spread onto the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Make the avocado yogurt sauce: In a small food processor, combine the yogurt, avocado, garlic, lime juice, and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Chill until ready to use.
Assemble the tacos with a scoop of the sauce, the roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, and desired toppings. Season with salt, pepper, and squeezes of lime.

***Vegan option: Sub cashew cream for yogurt. Blend until creamy: 1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews (soaked for at least 1 hour) with 1/2 cup water. (also, omit cheese)

20 Stores With Affordable Decor

20 Cheap Home Decor Stores to Adorn Your Place for Less (thepennyhoarder.com)

Well our friend’s over at http://www.pennyhoarders.com are helping us out once again with finding bargains and anyone who loves to change up the decor at home can really appreciate the tips! 20 stores to find affordable decor for all the rooms in your home and outside too:

1. At Home

At Home is a Texas-based chain that operates more than 200 stores in 40 states. According to its website, the large, warehouse-like stores “take unnecessary frills out [to] pass all of those savings on to [the customer].” Sign up for At Home Insider Perks for special discounts and information on new products and markdowns.

2. Big Lots

Big Lots is a chain that sells a variety of merchandise, including furniture and home decor. The company operates over 1,400 stores in 47 states. Budget-conscious shoppers can enjoy the store’s everyday low prices and free shipping for online orders of $59 or more. The BIG Rewards membership program offers exclusive coupons and savings.

3. CB2

CB2 is Crate and Barrel’s less expensive offshoot brand. Shop the “sales and offers” section of the website for discounted prices and get free shipping on over 1,000 items. CB2 also has 20 locations in major cities including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Miami — where you can attend DIY classes and see product demos.

4. Cost Plus World Market

Cost Plus World Market sells merchandise from around the globe at affordable prices. The company operates nearly 250 stores nationwide or you can shop online. Sign up for the World Market Rewards program to earn additional discounts.

5. Dormify

Dormify has all you need to outfit your college dorm or first apartment. Get free shipping on orders over $100. Students can join the retailer’s ambassador program and earn rewards for referring friends.

6. H&M Home

H&M is not just a retailer for jeans and T-shirts. You can find H&M Home in over 350 select H&M locations — plus there are 16 standalone stores. H&M Home sells a variety of affordable products for your bedroom, living room, bathroom and more. The company’s membership program offers savings and perks for those who sign up.

7. Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Habitat for Humanity ReStore is a secondhand store that sells home improvement materials, furniture and appliances. The stock at each of the 900-plus retail locations changes regularly as stores rely on donations from the community. In addition to scoring cheap deals at Habitat ReStore, you’ll also be supporting the nonprofit’s efforts of building homes for those in need. Check other local thrift stores if you don’t have a Habitat ReStore near you.

8. Hayneedle

Hayneedle is an online retailer specializing in home decor and furniture — with a large selection of products to spruce up your outdoor area. Enjoy free shipping on all orders.

9. The Home Depot

Power tools or gardening supplies might come to mind when you think of The Home Depot, but this home improvement giant also has a nice selection of home decor options. Shop for furniture, wall decor, lighting, rugs and more. The Home Depot has over 2,200 locations and offers price matching, special sales and in-store DIY workshops.

10. HomeGoods

HomeGoods, a sister store to TJ Maxx and Marshalls, stocks its stores with products like bedding, housewares, rugs, furniture and decor — all for low prices. This retail chain doesn’t sell merchandise online but there are more than 800 stores nationwide.

11. Ikea

The Scandinavian chain Ikea is well-known for its ready-to-assemble furniture, modern housewares and Swedish meatballs — all at affordable prices. There are over 375 Ikea warehouse stores across the world. Join the Ikea Family membership club for discounts and rewards.

12. Kmart

Kmart may be closing stores across the country but if you have a location near you, it’s a good option for low-priced merchandise. Find wall decor, lighting, window treatments and more.

13. Kohl’s

Kohl’s is a department store that sells various home decor products from brands like Food Network, Sonoma and Scott Living. Shop everyday deals, enroll in the company’s rewards program and earn Kohl’s Cash to help you save on future purchases. If you’re not shopping in person at one of the 1,000-plus stores, you can get free shipping on online purchases of $75 or more.

14. Lowe’s

Lowe’s is another home improvement store that sells a selection of home decor products. You can find furniture, wallpaper, window treatments, home accents and more, online or in store. Use these tips to save money at Lowe’s.

15. Michaels

You may think of Michaels as just an arts and crafts store, but you can also buy home decor items that don’t require any DIY skills. Michaels has a great selection of seasonal decor, frames, wall art, floral arrangements and more at its 1,250 locations and online. Become a Michaels Rewards member to get deals and information about upcoming sales promotions.

16. Nordstrom Rack

At Nordstrom Rack, you can find discounts from 30% to 70% off original prices. Although the store is mostly known for its clothing and accessories, it also sells a variety of affordable home decor. There are about 350 locations in the United States and Canada.

17. Overstock

Overstock is a popular online retailer for discounted home decor and furniture. Its loyalty program, Club O, costs $19.95 a year and comes with free returns, 5% off every purchase, price match guarantee and more.

18. Tuesday Morning

Tuesday Morning is a discount retailer that operates in more than 450 locations across the country. The no-frills stores buy name-brand closeouts to pass along the savings to customers. Tuesday Morning Perks members get special offers.

19. Uncommon Goods

Uncommon Goods sells unique, hand-crafted products from around the world. Prices vary, but shop sale items or join the Uncommon Perks program for $19.90 a year to enjoy benefits like free shipping.

20. Wayfair

Wayfair’s claim to fame is that it’s got just what you need when it comes to decking out your home. The online retailer regularly promotes sales and offers free two-day shipping on thousands of items over $35.

CINNAMON SUGAR BEIGNETS

Another recipe for beignets but this time cinnamon sugar instead of powdered sugar, thanks to http://www.neworleansschoolofcooking:

INGREDIENTS


4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (95°F to 100°F)
1/2 cup milk powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup Cajun Power Sweet Treat Cinnamon Sugar

PROCEDURE

  1. Add flour, sugar, salt and yeast to the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk to combine. Place bowl on mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  2. Add warm water,milk powder, egg and butter. Mix on medium speed until the mixture forms a smooth dough, about 4 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the
    refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Once risen, divide the dough in half and roll out on a lightly floured work surface to about 1/4″-thick. Cut the dough into 2″ squares. You can use heart-shaped, “x”, or “o” cookie cutters to cut your dough.
  4. Meanwhile, heat 3” of oil to 350°F in a medium pot. Fry dough in batches, turning once, until puffed and golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined tray and cool slightly.
  5. Place cinnamon sugar in a shallow bowl. Coat warm beignets in cinnamon sugar. Serve immediately.