Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday's Frugal Fun

If you know me, you know I like to save money. I love a good bargain, an awesome sale, or a butt kicking coupon.

I've recently been reading more "frugal living" blogs lately. While I, by no stretch of the imagination, have saving money down to a science like some ladies do (and probably never will) - I at least appreciate what I've read and learned.

I have decided that every Friday (or every other Friday depending on how much time I have) I'm going to share with you either cool blogs I've discovered along the way, any pointers and tips I have myself, money savings websites, or any other information I've picked up along the way in my readings. and just in life Don't worry, this blog will still be 99% about food, you can be assured of that since I could never compete with some of the money-saving blogs out there. I just thought a little deviation, once a week, is sometimes a nice breath of fresh air!

Like free samples? Then you'll love Mommy Saves Big. This is one I've been using for awhile because I really, really love free samples. I can be picky about which ones I sign up for though so some days with this site can be hit or miss - for me at least. But when it's a hit it's usually a pretty big hit! This blog is a great central location for capturing all that is available about there whether it's for free samples of coffee, shampoo, or food products. Best thing I've discovered about free samples is that generally they almost always come with a money saving coupon (typically a better than one you'd find in your weekly Sunday paper too!).

Speaking of coupons, I am an avid user of This website has a lot of similar coupons to what you will find in your Sunday circular, however, I find sometimes the money-off deals are off a lesser quantity of items sometimes, etc. Since it's only my husband and I at home, I really hate some of those coupons that are $1 off of 5 items, or something crazy like that.

Last is a site I've been a member of for awhile called MySurvey. MySurvey sends you emails when you may qualify for a survey. I usually get 2 -3 survey offers per week in my inbox, sometimes less, occassionally more. The qualifying part of the survey usually never takes more than 10 minutes most of the time less than that. If you qualify, well, the time to take the survey can vary but with that also comes a variation in how much each survey is worth - usually between 200 - 750 points if you qualify for a survey (100 points = $1). You can redeem your points, for cash or prizes, once you reach 1,000 points (which is equivalent to $10). You can click on the banner below for more information and to sign up.
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Monday, October 27, 2008

Cookies that just scream FALL!

As much as I do love to cook, baking is one of my favorite things to do. I really consider myself more of a baker than a cook. I don't know why, but I just love filling the house up with the oven's warmth and the cozy smells of something fabulous brewing behind that oven door. There is just something so cozy and homey about baking. This is one of the biggest reasons I love the fall. After baking very little all summer due to not wanting to heat up the house, it's a relief for me when cooler weather comes and my baking adventures can resume.

Last week I did quite a bit of baking, for the reasons mentioned above and to a great extent to really keep some warmth in the house since we were holding off as long as possible trying not to turn our furnace on! Long story short, we turned it on last Wednesday but the baked goods were of course worth it. One of the things I baked last week was the Glazed Apple Cookie recipe below.

Apples are my favorite fruit. I love apple pie, apple crisp, apple bread, apple sauce - but a cookie? That's definitely "outside the box." My discovery with this recipe is that it is absolutely awesome to have apples in a cookie!!! These cookies are definitely staying on my list of favorites!

Glazed Apple Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup apples - peeled, cored and finely diced
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons half-and-half cream

Beat shortening and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and blend thoroughly.

Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

Stir half the dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts, apple and raisins, then stir in remaining half of dry ingredients and milk. Mix well.

Drop from tablespoon 1 1/2 inches apart onto lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove cookies to racks and while still warm, spread with glaze.

To make Glaze: Combine powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and enough cream to make glaze of spreading consistency. Beat until smooth. Spread on warm cookies.

A bit negligent with my picture taking these days...

Yet again I've neglected to take a picture for this blog of something new I've made. Sometimes we start eating and I remember and figure I'll take a picture when we have leftovers. Well I forgot then too! I guess you will just have to take my word for it that this recipe is fabulous, easy, and wonderful. Nothing better than a crockpot recipe....but nothing better than a crockpot recipe with very few ingredients!

This pork came out moist, tender, and flavorful. It wasn't dry at all - I was a little skeptical it might be. I left my roast whole and cooked it about 7 hours. I also threw some potatoes and baby carrots in with it and they came out super tasty. A thanks to my friend Pam M. for this recipe!

Apple-Dijon Pork Roast

2 Pound(s) - 3 pound pork loin
1 Can chicken broth
1 Cup apple juice
1/2 Cup(s) Dijon mustard
6 Tablespoon cornstarch
6 Tablespoon cold water
Cut roast in half; place in a 5 quart slow cooker. Combine the broth, apple juice & mustard; pour over roast. Cover & cook on low for 4-4 1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 160°.

Remove roast & keep warm. For gravy, strain cooking juices & skim fat. Pour juices into a small saucepan. Combine cornstarch & water until smooth; gradually stir into juices. Bring to a boil; cook & stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with pork.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Apple-Pear Crumble Pie

I love fall for many reasons - leaves turning color on the trees, the sites, the smells, Halloween, Thanksgiving and of course for the pure reason that my favorite fruit - the apple - which is in its best season in our area.

In following my love of apples, I have tried out yet another apple pie type recipe - this time an Apple-Pear Crumble Pie from It was dessert for the other night when our parents came over dor dinner. It was certainly easy to make and of course incorporated apples so that's always a plus in my book.

Everyone said it was good. My verdict? It is just ok - not bad, but not spectacular. It's a good recipe to keep around but I probaby won't be running out to make it again anytime soon. Idid make it using Splenda & Splenda Brown Sugar blends as substitutes where possible so that may have affected the taste a bit.

Apple-Pear Crumble Pie

3/4 cup crushed NILLA Wafers (about 24 wafers)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 ready-to-use refrigerated pie crust (1/2 of 15-oz. pkg.)
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
2 large baking apples, peeled, sliced
1 large fresh pear, peeled, sliced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1-1/4 cups thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Mix wafer crumbs, brown sugar and butter until well blended; set aside.
Place pie crust in greased 9-inch pie plate. Spread cream cheese carefully onto bottom of crust; sprinkle with half of the crumb mixture. Set aside. Combine fruit in large bowl. Add granulated sugar, flour and cinnamon; toss to coat. Spoon over crumb layer in pie crust; sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture.
Bake 35 min. or until fruit is tender and crust is lightly browned, covering loosely with foil after 25 min. if necessary to prevent crust from overbrowning. Cool on wire rack. Serve topped with the whipped topping. Store any leftover pie in refrigerator.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Creamy Stove-Top Macaroni & Cheese

I started coming down with a cold this week and being that it's the time of the year it is, nothing sounded better than some good old comfort food for dinner - mac 'n cheese to the rescue. I've tried a few versions of macaroni & cheese and I was a big fan of this one, it was quick, easy, and delicious. I added about a dash of paprika to this to bring out a little bit of a smoky taste. I also used a combo of cheddar and mozarella shredded cheeses since I had both in the house and rotini pasta since I didn't have elbow but even after those minor changes all I can say is: Yum!

Creamy Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese

4 cups uncooked medium elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/4 cups fat-free milk
1/4 cup 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
Dash of paprika
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and set aside.

While pasta cooks, place flour, salt, and pepper in a large saucepan. Add milk, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Drop cream cheese by teaspoonfuls into milk mixture; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; simmer 2 minutes or until thick and cream cheese melts, stirring occasionally. Stir in mustard, Worcestershire, paprika, and garlic; simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add cheddar cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Combine pasta and cheese sauce in a large bowl; toss well.

Monday, October 20, 2008

More crockpot action

I really love the fact that my crockpot is versatile that you can make a down home comfort food type of meal in it, but you can also make a really nice meal that is serve-to-company-worthy. I did just that on Sunday making my friend Janine's crockpot chicken marsala recipe to serve when my parents and in-laws came over for dinner!

Sorry for the lack of a picture with this, I really need to do better with this when we have company over since most of the time I just plain ole forget!

Crockpot Chicken Marsala

4 - 6 chicken breast, boneless skinless
2 Cup fresh button mushrooms
2 Clove minced garlic
1/2 Teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon black pepper
1/2 Cup chicken broth
1/4 Cup marsala cooking wine
1/2 Cup half and half or light cream
1/4 Cup chopped fresh parsley

Place all ingredients except cream & parsley in your slow cooker. Cover & cook for 8 hours. Half an hour before serving add cream to slow cooker. Serve with parsley

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Say....CHEESE....cake that is!!!

As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband and I stayed in for a quiet night at home on his birthday rather than going out to eat. But since it was his birthday, I of course I had to make him a special dessert!

There are a few dessert elements I know are a hit with my husband at almost any given time:
- Peanut butter
- Mint
- Cheesecake
Obviously not all together though!

With that said, I decided to make a cheesecake, but to celebrate this wonderful fall season I decided on an apple cheesecake. It was delicious and easy...can't go wrong with that! I definitey would not hesitate to make this one again!

As usual I made a couple of changes which I've done below. Also even though the directions say to sprinkle cinnamon & sugar on teh apples after you place them on the cheesecake I actually tossed my apples in the cinnamon and sugar and then placed them on the top of the cheesecake. I thought this was an easier way to ensure an even coating on all of the apples.

Fall Apple Bavarian Cheesecake

1/3 cup butter, melted
1-1/4 cups HONEY MAID Graham Cracker Crumbs
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup plus 3 Tbsp. sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced (I had to use 2 medium-to-large sized apples to cover cheesecake)
1/4 cup Sliced Almonds (I omitted)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix butter and crumbs; press firmly onto bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate.

Beat cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Pour into crust; top with apple slices and almonds. Combine 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and remaining 3 Tbsp. sugar; sprinkle over cheesecake.

Bake 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

More reasons I love my crockpot

Getting home from work and having a full dinner sitting there waiting for you, filling your house with great smells is another reason I love my crockpot so darn much.

This week was my husband's birthday. We just returned from a weeklong cruise to Bermuda and while on the cruise ate....we ate a lot. Going out to dinner this week to celebrate his birthday wasn't at the top of either of our lists after all that food we stuffed in ourselves last week so a quiet dinner at home it was. I decided to make a comfort food classic and finally whip out my crockpot for the first time this season.

I followed a recipe shared by someone else on my local nest board - a lovely nestie by the name of Erin who got a ton of raves from other girls who tried this recipe. I can see why! This recipe came out fabulous - the meat was tender and flavorful and practially just fell apart it was so tender. Just plain ole delicious.

I added a little more liquid to the recipe (a full cup of red wine and about a 1/4 to 1/3 cup of water) because I wanted to have ample gravy when it was done. I also added 3 potatoes cut in half to the veggie cast. I cooked mine for about 9 hours on low and it was perfect. This evidenced by the fact that the leftovers did not last long in our house!

Pot Roast

3 Pound beef pot roast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp steak seasoning or seasoned pepper (I used black pepper & Montreal steak seasoning)
1/2 bag baby carrot
4 Cloves smashed garlic
1 packet mushroom onion soup mix
1/4 Cup - 1/2 cup wine, beer or vermouth (I used a full cup of red wine)
1/4 Cup - 1/2 cup water (I used 1/4 cup of water)
2 peeled & quartered onion
3 potatoes cut in half
1 tablespoon flour or cornstarch to thicken (I used about a tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 and made a slurry with water before adding to the crockpot)

Coat all sides of roast with salt and seasoned pepper. Brown in dry skillet on all sides. Toss all the veggies and garlic in the bottom of the Crockpot, top with meat, then add soup mix, top with liquids. Cover and cook on low for the longest time your Crockpot allows (I cooked it for about 9 hours or so). When it's done cooking, take the meat out and stir in a little bit of flour or cornstarch to thicken up the sauce put the meat back in and serve straight out of the pot.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How about some cake? I'll have it ready in a minute!

Well, 3 minutes, but still this is the fastest recipe for cake - ever.

A couple of weeks ago on my local nest board, a lovely lady by the name of Lesa shared this little gem with us that had been passed along to her. She had not tried it yet but really - cake in a minute - how can that not be good, right?

Some of the ladies on my board have tried it and there have been mixed reviews. Of course me, being me, I just had to try it. What better night than to try on when my husband has "guys night" and I can make it all for myself?

The result? It was good but not as chocolate-y and gooey as I had hoped. I did not use a full 3 tablespoons of chocolate chips, I highly recommend just going for it and dumping them all in. Also I think 3 minutes was a little too long in my microwave and next time I will try 2 1/2 minutes just seemed a wee bit overdone to me. Not burnt, not dry, but just slightly overdone.

And yes, don't be alarmed when the cake rises above the mug as the recipe indicates. Holey moley did that thing take on a life of its own!!! (p.s. Don't you love my Disney mug????)

Minute Mug Cake

4 Tablespoons flour
4 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
3 Tablespoons milk
3 Tablespoons oil
1 small splash vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Add dry ingredients to coffee mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.

Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla, and mix again.

Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!

Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.