Monthly Archives: September 2014

Net Price Calculators Require Patience

Just when you thought getting college financial aid information was going to be a snap, it isn’t.

Getting that piece of information about grants in order to use my “Bucket Method” of comparing college affordability is, admittedly, a bit of a challenge. The unlovely Net Price Calculators now installed by law on the websites of most every college in the U.S. are, in some cases, a display of resistance and neglect by the host entities. On one hand, I am somewhat heartened by the efforts of the College Board to standardize the format of data entry and display of this online college financial aid tool. On the other hand, I am saddened by the efforts by other third party NPC providers to use clever marketing to hoodwink prospective students into making poor choices and falling headlong into giant craters of debt. Watch this video and become your own financial aid “detective”.

Low Carb Blondies!

Low Carb Blondies!
Low Carb Blondies!

Yes, I said Blondies…I promise, it’s a real food thing…no kidding!

I finished an episode, scheduled for tomorrow, so I decided to make a dessert. Blondies are kind of like brownies, except not made with chocolate. These are particularly delicious and seasonal, thanks to the pumpkin in the batter. They just happen to be both low carb AND gluten-free!
Here’s the recipe:
Low Carb Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Banana Blondies with Walnuts

Ingredients

1 stick unsalted Butter, softened slightly
1 ¾ C. Splenda
5 Eggs
1 small can Pumpkin Puree
2 very ripe Bananas
1 ½ tsp. Blackstrap Molasses
1 ½ tsp. Vanilla
2 ¼ C. Almond Flour
1 ½ tsp. Baking Powder
1 ½ tsp. Pumpkin Pie spice
¼ tsp. Salt
½ C. or more of Walnuts (or chopped dried plums or dark chocolate chips or anything else that sounds good!).

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees and use convection fan.

Butter a square 9×9 baking pan. Parchment paper in the bottom of the pan can help prevent sticking.

Beat Butter and Splenda together. Add eggs and blend in. Add Molasses,Vanilla, Pumpkin and Bananas and mix well.
Combine Almond Flour, Baking powder, Spice, and Salt. Add to wet mixture and blend well. Add Walnuts if desired.

Pour batter into square baking pan and smooth it out.

Bake in a 300 degree convection oven for 1 hour until toothpick comes out clean. Since ovens vary in temperature, be sure to check every 5 minutes or so starting at 45 minutes into the baking time.

Cool on countertop, then cut in squares and store in refrigerator…if there are any left!

The College Financial Aid Explained Using Buckets!

Nobody told me not to try this at home…

I challenged myself to do a video in which I attempt to explain the basic concept of the college financial aid system, such as it is, in under three minutes. I had to reduce it to a visualization of someone filling buckets with liquid numerical information. Please watch my video and decide whether I was successful. If, after watching, you feel more competent to meet the challenge of the college decision process, I will count that in the win column. If you feel like herding a bunch of tech-types into a windowless room equipped with computers, snacks and caffeinated beverages and telling them not to leave until they have come up with a better system for pre-determining the ultimate cost of a college for any given family, then I will want a cut of the resulting deluge of cash from crazed parental units across these fruited plains!
That is all…please watch and report.

Low Carb Brownies vs. Scriptwriting…hmmm!

Low Carb wins the day!

Low Carb Brownies win the day…of course!

Having gotten this recipe done to my satisfaction, all that remained was to win the highly coveted “Hubby Award”. To get a nomination for the Hubby Award, a low carb desert recipe must not elicit a comment such as “tastes like sawdust” or “maybe it will be okay with ice cream”. This low carb brownie recipe underwent 4 iterations, all of which either ended up in the trash or will actually be eaten with ice cream at a much later date (when we are desperate!). The final and Hubby Award winning version of Low Carb Brownies succeeded by being  “full of oozing chocolate chips” and  “dense and chewy like real brownies”. There you have it. Try my recipe and collect your own Hubby Award!
Here it is:
Low Carb Brownies
Ingredients
4 oz. Ghiradelli 60% Cacao chocolate chips or bar, melted and cooled
10 oz. cream cheese, slightly softened
16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 1/2 C. Splenda
6 large lightly beaten eggs
2 tsp. instant coffee granules
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Dry Ingredients:
1 C. Almond meal (Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 C. Vital Wheat Gluten protein powder (Bob’s Red Mill)
6 Tbs. Dutch-processed dark cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
6-8 oz. Ghiradelli 60% Cacao chocolate chips for stirring into batter.
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with convection fan running. Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan (lining the bottom with parchment paper is optional, but works well if it is also buttered). In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in the melted, cooled chocolate and fold in the Splenda. Beat in I/3 of the eggs at a time, scraping the bowl well after each addition. Add the coffee and vanilla extract. Beat until combined. In a medium bowl, mix the almond meal, VWG protein powder, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Add 1/2 the dry ingredients mixture at a time and beat well. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 25 minutes on convection until the top is firm (ovens may vary). Cool before cutting. Store brownies covered, in the refrigerator. Note: these brownies are low carb but not gluten free. If you want gluten free just use only almond flour (1 1/2 c.).

New Student ID cards – Chips Ahoy!

If your student is just entering his or her freshman year of college, there is a lot of new information to absorb. It’s enough to give you a headache that even Aleve will not help! One of the first pictures your student will post on Facebook is a shot of his or her brand new Student ID card. If your student is attending one of the 40% of colleges now participating in the “One Card” program, this will not look at all like your old student ID card that now lives in a scrapbook under your staircase. This new-fangled card has a hologram headshot of your student, some barcode, a subway logo (not the sandwich shop), a clever logo intertwined with a dollar bill sign, an Obamacare logo, the school’s logo and name, the fuzzy yet buff mascot, AND LO AND BEHOLD – a tiny MASTERCARD Debit Card chip!
What is up with this? (Watch my video!) But suffice it to say that the banks have gotten in bed with the colleges and universities. And it’s a mighty comfy bed indeed. It’s even okay for your student to participate in fluffing up the pillows, if, IF, he or she knows the rules.
Knowing the rules gets your student a completely free bank account for the duration of college. This includes a free debit card and free checking account. What’s not to like? However, there are some complaints which I talk about in my video, so please watch it.

For Staying Out of Student Loan Debt Trouble…Knowledge Is Power!

Student loan info is the new hot commodity among financial writers.

As students are going to college for the first time, or back to college for the second, third (or even tenth) year, the number of articles I see about the issue of student loan debt are multiplying faster than I can read them online. But when an exceptionally good article appears in a real live publication in my mailbox, it’s going to get my full attention. I might even read it twice…mostly while eating (low carb, of course!). This article appears in the Fall 2014 USAA magazine, Volume 50, Number 3. It’s title is “ Escaping the Shadow of College Debt”. Here is a link to read it online: >http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/pace/usaa_2014fall/#/12 . The article contains good stories about two women, who, for different reasons, got themselves into some serious student loan debt. It lays out the scope of the student loan problem and then engages the help of some of the heavy hitters in the college financial business, including Mark Kantrowitz of Edvisors Network and Lynn O’Shaughnessy, author of “The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price”. It also gets a lot of great info from the very same website I use in this episode of The College Money Mom. This website is brought to you by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a relatively new department of the U.S. government. So watch this episode to learn about the different kinds of student loans in a really easy to understand way! And, once you have this knowledge, you’ll be able to steer yourself, and others, out of harms’s way.