Sunday, January 6, 2013

2013 Resolutions...

2012  2013 Resolutions...

Several have asked me, for conversational sake I'm sure, what my resolutions are for this year. My usual answer would be to eat less chocolate and therefore loose about 10 pounds or so. You know what that answer will get me? Nothing, I love chocolate! Not that I secretly won't be working on loosing some weight. Seriously, who isn't? I refuse to set myself up for failure and I really don't like people being my food police. You know what I mean. You go to a restaurant and order fries instead of sliced tomatoes and there he/she is, looking at you like you just broke a personal promise to them.

So, I have put thought into a resolution and I hope I have one that is more realistic. Couponing. No, I am not going to try to stock up on 850 rolls of toilet paper or frozen isle junk food just to be able to use a coupon. I am however going to set aside time each Sunday and clip coupons, print coupons, search store ad's and hopefully, save some money.

I started this venture this morning at 9am. I printed online coupons and I am waiting for my husband to return home from work with the Sunday paper so I can clip the coupons from there. As of next week I am getting it delivered, Sunday only. I wanted to see if the price of the LA Times Sunday edition would go down after the holiday. It didn't but I still found a good deal. Then I created a spreadsheet in Excel to track my coupons, retail store specials and my weekly shopping list. This will help me with my weekly budget. I can tweak where I need so I don't overspend. Since I really don't know exactly how to organize myself just yet, it's taken me about 7 hours to do everything I have set out to do.

SWAGBUCKS: I started by going to a coupon site through Swagbucks.com this way when I use the coupons I selected I also will earn Swagbucks. If you haven't heard of Swagbucks or you have but you aren't sure if it's worth it, let me tell you that in my opinion, it is. In the last 2 years I have gained enough Swagbucks here and there just from searching the Internet to get enough money in Amazon gift cards to buy a very nice Fuzzy Logic Rice Cooker, a Harry Potter DVD set of all 8 movies, some e-books for my Kindle and other things I honestly cannot remember at the time. My point being, not only will I save money with the coupons but I will earn Swagbucks points that l one day turn into an Amazon gift card. Swagbucks has a lot of different options for you to spend your points but I choose the Amazon card. I also find that mathematically, if you order multiple $5 cards, you get more for your points than saving up for a larger dollar card.

TARGET: Target not only accepts manufacturer coupons but they also have printable and text coupons for the store. You can go to the target website for more information. I also use a "Red Card" that gives me an extra 5% off. It's a debit card attached to my checking account, not a credit card. I believe they have credit cards too but I am not interested in one. Lately I have been buying my ground beef from Target. I did research and found that they do not sell ground beef with pink slime in it. If you don't know what pink slime is just go to Youtube and search it. Yuck! The ground beef at Target is usually at a good price too. This week it's 2 lbs for $7 at my local store. Not everything is a deal though. They are currently running a special where if you buy 4 of some particular products you will get a $5 gift card back. Now if you actually need those items, it would be worth it. In my case, after careful thinking, I chose to not go in that direction. I would have ended up with items that I really didn't need to spend the money on at this time just to get that $5 back. Last week I spent $62 at Target and was able to purchase enough meat to make dinner for a week as well as buy some needed grocery items.

WALMART: I personally don't shop at Walmart unless I absolutely have to. Honestly, it's just too big of a store and the lines are always really long. Where I may save a few bucks, I loose in time. However, they do take coupons so if I am in the area, know I will make out really well, I just may find the time.

Warehouse Stores (Costco, Sam's Club): I used to have memberships to both of these stores. I don't anymore because I just don't have the budget to spend at one time there. Buying in bulk is great for many but for me I need to shop in smaller quantities because I don't have $200 plus dollars to spend on just meat. I need to make that money spread out better.

Local Grocery Stores: I would love to have more than just two stores to go to but I don't. I live in a very small town on a mountain and the local grocery store is very expensive and I only shop there when in a bind or just need to get some milk. The store down the hill is a Stater Bros and while it's not the greatest store in the universe, they are not so bad either. I always look at the meat specials first. London Broil feeds my whole family so when it's on sale I am sure to buy at least 2 or 3 if I can afford it at the time and put one in the fridge and the others in the freezer. Chicken is expensive. I am sometimes needing to buy the bags of flash frozen breasts because I would have to win the lottery to afford it fresh. But the moisture content in the flash frozen chicken is nice when you are making lemon chicken or any chicken with pan sauces. You just need to realize you have to consider the extra liquid you will be adding to the pan and adjust your recipe very slightly.

Beware of end cap displays! I never grab what is on an end of an isle without checking the actual isle first. So many times I find a better deal. And for goodness sake, look up and down. Don't shop just from the center of the shelf. Especially with cereal.

Yes, I am normally a very smart shopper but I know I can save more if I just take the time to use coupons. I'll post again about this as time goes on and honestly report if I saved enough to make it worth my Sunday. Hopefully I will get much better at this and not take 7 or so hours.

Wish me luck and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Revisiting my seasonal favorite indulgence...Rum Balls

Recently a friend of mine asked if she can link to this recipe that I posted, I think about 2 or 3 years ago. Rum Balls are a treat I decided to make back in my 20's when I was super poor and single and needed a cheap but impressive dessert to bring to a friend's holiday potluck. I think I found the recipe in a Hershey's cookbook. It was great because I didn't have to cook them and back then I worked 3 jobs so I really didn't have time to cook a big hoopla of a dessert. Also, it involved alcohol. Well, I WAS going to a party so....yeah. Anyway, I tried it, it was a hit and I have made them every year every since. Below is my original post with the recipe. Enjoy!

  
I was born in 1969 so I have something in common with one of my favorite holiday indulges, Rum Balls. We were both born in the 60's. 

With the recipe below you can make some changes to suit your taste. I have experimented a lot and found that this is a pretty good recipe for experimenting.

  • Instead of the Nilla Wafers you can use shortbread cookies.
  • Instead of pecans or walnuts you can use hazelnuts. 
  • Instead of rum you can use bourbon whiskey (we use Maker's Mark).
  • Also try adding extracts. I have used coconut extract and cherry extracts in the past.   
They should sit in the fridge in an air tight container for at least 48 hours. Yield 4 dozen 

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers (easiest to use a food processor for this) 
1 1/2 cups finely chopped toasted pecans or walnuts 
1/2 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar - J calls it snow)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I like to use Hershey's European Cocoa) 
2 tablespoons dark or light corn syrup 
1/4 cup of rum (do not use 151 because it is too dry and will not work well) 
Confectioners sugar, chocolate sprinkles, nuts and/or coconut for garnish 

Directions:
Simply mix all ingredients up to the rum together in the order given above. Make little balls and roll in powdered sugar. Place in a bowl or container and cover. Place in refrigerator for 48 hours. Take out of fridge and roll in confectioners sugar or any of the garnishes listed and serve. 

They are so darned good. And of course, not for kids.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Maple Glazed Pork Chops (crockpot recipe)

This is an original recipe I created back in my mid-20's when I discovered Grade B Maple syrup at Trader Joes and is one of my favorite Autumn meals. While I have changed it here and there like most times I use Apple Cider instead of the Mango Peach juice I used today. Sometimes I use rice wine vinegar or champagne vinegar. It just depends what I have on hand at the moment.

Grade B maple is wonderful for cooking because it's deeper and more rich in flavor then Grade A. It's also thicker in texture. If you cannot get Grade B syrup just use the regular Grade A but use only 1 Tablespoon of vinegar. Today I used a real good Grade A Medium Amber Maple syrup and still used the 2 T. of vinegar.

The end result is tender flavorful pork chops that will fill your home with the smell of autumn.








5-6 Chops about 1/2" thick (I use bone in because I think they are more tender but you can use center loin if you want)
1/2 Cup Apple Cider or Mango Peach juice without added sugar
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
2 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
Allspice (just a pinch)
Salt (just a pinch)
2 Tblsp. Unsalted Butter
Spray Oil

In a small saucepan add Juice, Maple Syrup, Vinegar, Worcestershire, Allspice and Salt. Cook over low heat to reduce until it's more like a glaze. You'll see it getting darker and thicker. Turn off heat and set aside.



Season Pork Chops with Salt on both sides. If you use salted butter do not season the chops. Melt butter in large pan and brown the pork chops on both sides.




Spray large crockpot with oil and add chops. Pour glaze over chops being sure to coat both sides of each.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Great served over brown or white rice. Also good sides are mashed potatoes, roasted acorn squash, mashed sweet potatoes or cinnamon apples.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Food trucks, food trucks everywhere!

Oh yes, once again I turn to my blog after much time away. I've had this blog for many years, since 2006 and I really should use it more but really, is life that interesting? Is my life so interesting that I need to write all about it? Usually the answer is a solid NO! However, I have something to get out today and I think as long as time permits, I will write about this more as time goes on.

Ahhhh, the Great Gourmet Food Truck trend. In the Inland Empire where I currently reside near we cannot have these wonderful meals on wheels frequent the area. This lame county of San Bernardino has something against them and won't let them do business here. So twice a year they have about 50 trucks now meet in an arena in Ontario and charge a fee to get in on top of the fee for the food you buy. Not worth it. Not at all.

Two weeks ago my sweetie I dropped off my son at his dad's in Orange County. Since the OC is the mecca of so many amazing food trucks, including The Lime Truck which was the recent winner of The Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network, we decided to hit Twitter and find some good eats.

We bounced back and forth between a meet-up in Fullerton and another in Santa Fe Springs. We chose SFS simply because both The Lime Truck was there as well as the Grill 'Em All truck which was the winner of season 1 of The Great Food Truck Race. I have to admit, it was a good choice.

When we arrived at the location there were about 12 trucks. The Cuban truck from the most recent Food Truck Race was there as well but we didn't try it. To be honest, I forgot about them and realized what truck that was way later in the night after I was home already.




















The lines of course were quite long. I went in the line for the Lime truck and Duane waited for Grill 'em all. I ordered an amazing lamb sandwich and also ceviche. The ceviche won them one of the challenges on the show so that was a must to try. Duane and I shared them while still in line for the Grill Em truck which opened quite a bit later then the other trucks. The lamb was amazing. It was made with ground lamb so it was more like a flattened burger placed in a very soft and fresh pita. It has taziki with fresh crisp toppings and sriracha as well. The ceviche was so good it converted Duane into liking crab, shrimp and scallops! It was perfectly marinated with lime and seasonings and served with fresh tortilla chips. We washed that down with a White Peach Limeaide that was good but if the name of the drink has white peach in it, then it would have been nice to actually taste some peach. All I tasted was lime. But it was still good and very refreshing.



So finally we made it to the Grill Em window to order and we decided on the Waste ‘Em all burger which included a 7 oz. burger with green chilies, pepper jack and beer soaked onion. We also had a side of fries with chipolte ketchup. The burger was good and very fresh. The onions were the best part. The fries were...fries. And the chipolte ketchup was ok, mine is better. So while finishing off the burger we got in line for dessert. You didn't think we would skip dessert did you? We chose the Chunk 'n' Chip truck which had a variety of homemade ice creams and fresh and hot baked cookies. I chose german chocolate ice cream in between 2 chocolate chocolate chip cookies. Duane chose vanilla bean ice cream on top of crushed cookies which were also the chocolate chocolate chip. NOW THAT WAS GOOD!







I wanted so bad to check out the seafood trucks but no way, not in this trip. I was full and frankly, out of money. The trucks we went to averaged from $3 to $10 per item. The food was indeed gourmet and very fresh. This is a great trend for those looking for a good meal at a reasonable price. It's fun too. Makes for a great sneak a date night.




Maybe next time we will check out the meet-up in Fullerton. I really want to track down the Lobsta truck and Barcelona on the Go. Yum!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Wiggles Los Angeles 2010 - They never fail to please!

For some people taking their child to see a children's entertainment group is something they do because they want to give their child a glimpse of fun and happiness but they themselves will say to their friends about how much they cannot wait until the show is over. After all, it's not like going to rock concert or a show they themselves would rather be at, right? Well perhaps but I can tell you that is absolutely not the case with going to a Wiggles show.























OK, maybe for parents of a new wiggler but I guarantee once the show begins and by the time it ends, parents will be talking about the show as if they just left their favorite rock performer. I know this because once upon a time, say 6 years ago I was that same parent.


The 1st Wiggles show I took my son to was in Long Beach, CA and I got the cheapest seats I could buy. Not only that, it was a last minute thought. I saw a commercial on TV and thought about how much fun for my son it would be to see them live. After all, we loved the shows back then on Playhouse Disney. Once the show ended I remember trying to see if I could afford tickets to the San Diego show which was to be the next day and then also Los Angeles which was that weekend.















Nothing has changed except my son is 8, almost 9 now and doesn't watch the shows that are now on Sprout but he never wants to miss a live show. Why is that? Because simply put, The Wiggles rock!

This year was amazing as always but different. My tickets were located in the Orchestra section which at the venue I was at is the section right above the floor seats. Long ago these and the floor seats were called "Hot Potato" seats and would have some kind of a Wiggly treat waiting for you. This year was no different. There was a cardboard activity sheet on every seat in my section. On the floor seats they had the same thing as well as a Wiggly Guitar cutout that was quite large in size. Large enough that a child could certainly make believe they're playing their guitar with Murray.

They added acrobatics into the show as of last year and that continued as a main theme this year. The theme and name of the show was Wiggly Circus although it wasn't very circus-like. They had "Ringo the Ring Master" as they did in the movie that was in the theatres not too long ago. (if you missed it I'm not surprised. The movie wasn't advertised very well. It was from a live show they did in Australia) They certainly don't have as many dancers on tour with them anymore. The large extravagant sets are gone and a simple stage is what you see. The jumbo video screens are gone too. It's very much back to basics like when I first saw them in Long Beach. But seriously it doesn't matter! Sets, schmets. They give the audience a full show leaving you totally entertained and smiling.


They visited many older songs like rock-a-bye your bear, fruit salad, the monkey dance, Here Comes a Bear, Captain Feathersword Fell Asleep On His Pirate Ship (Quack, Quack), Hot Potato and more. They also went into the audience quite a bit. For those that have never been to a Wiggles show you must know that they collect roses the children bring for Dorothy during the show. There is always at least 2 of the Wiggles along with a few Wiggly Dancers depending on the size of the venue that go into the audience to do this. It's always exciting seeing your favorite dancer or a Wiggle come to you and get your roses and of course if you brought one, a bone for Wags the Dog. Well this year, ALL FOUR WIGGLES collected roses and we were fortunate enough to have Anthony collect ours. He very graciously took a picture with my son and his friend. My son is the older one. It made their day!

After the show we stopped to talk to one of the main sound guys. I believe his name was Arnie. He was very nice and answered my question about Miki Field, Anthony's wife. Miki is listed as an entertainer in the program but I didn't see her on stage. For those of you with enquiring minds, it turns out Miki was not there after all. She was indeed on the UK leg of the tour and she will probably come back to "visit" during the latter part of the tour but she is taking care of the children back in Australia at this time. Also some info we received was about Alex. Alex used to be the main sound guy and we would always say hello to him as well. I know what you're thinking and we are not crazy, we actually have a reason for talking to these people and I will get to that in a minute. Anyway Alex is now working at Hot Potato Studios in Oz. He works with various bands that record there as well as the productions of The Wiggles. Last year Alex left the tour early as his second child was arriving. Now for the explanation of why we go to the sound booth after the show. A while back an amazing woman from Texas who will remain nameless for this blog post started collecting the bones that people would bring for Wags and then donate them to the local animal shelters. She soon organized people from all over the world to do this and I'll tell you, it's an amazing effort. So at the end of the show we go to the sound booth and collect the bones. For more information about collecting bones in your area please leave me a comment and I will put you in touch with someone who can help you organize that.


Well another year down and does my son want to go again next year when he's 9 going on 10? Crazy enough, YES! He really has a great time and until he says no, well this Wiggly mom is going to happily say yes and get ready to Wiggle!

Thank you US Family Guide for giving me the tickets to the show and allowing me to post my link to your site. If you are interested in reviewing a show and/or submitting your family friendly blog, go to http://www.usfamilyguide.com/.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Easiest and BEST pot roast recipe EVER!

It's been such a long time since I posted to this blog but I am back! I'm going to start updating it more and hopefully I have at least one of my readers still. (right dad?)

So I work from home now so I have time to actually slow roast. This is good because I can purchase lower priced meats and braise them long enough that they taste amazing.

Well, I have a pot roast recipe for you that I have recently fell in love with. Jonathan, who is now 8 doesn't like the traditional way I made this roast but he'll eat it this way!

What you'll need:

2 pounds of boneless chuck roast
2 Tablespoons Oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted Butter
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 bottle of red wine
2 cups of Vegetable Stock
2 cups of Beef Stock

What you'll do:

I use a Dutch Oven but you can use any heavy bottom pot as long as it can go from stove top to oven.

Pre-heat oven to 350
Heat oil and butter
Sear Roast on all sides
Set Roast aside
Add Onion and garlic and let cook for about a minute
Add the ENTIRE bottle of wine
Reduce until you have about a cup of wine in the pot
Add your roast back in pot
Add the stock
Cover
Place in oven and cook for about 3 hours
Take out and enjoy!

I serve this with mashed potatoes. The texture of the mashed potatoes and the richness of the meat go so well together.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Easiest Meatballs Ever!

There are only so many hours in a day so of course whenever I can take a shortcut and still make a great and inexpensive meal I am a happy person! So here is my recipe for the easiest and a great tasting spaghetti and meatballs using one of my favorite kitchen appliances, the slow cooker.

For this I use the meatloaf meat from the butcher department in my grocery store. The reason is shortcut, shortcut, shortcut! It's already well seasoned and makes for great meatballs.

Ingredients:

2 lbs. Meatloaf (raw of course)
1 egg
Italian breadcrumbs
1 can or jar of pasta sauce
1/4 cup water

Directions:

Mix meatloaf and egg. Add enough breadcrumbs to bind. Lightly spray crockpot oil. Make meatballs about the size of a medium sized meatball. Not too small and not too large. Place meatballs in crockpot and cover with sauce and water. Set to low and in about 6 hours you will have perfect meatballs.




Stay and play a while!