Monday, January 28, 2013

Cajun Chicken Sandwich


Lately I have been trying to save a little money by using meats I have in the freezer and other ingredients I already have in my pantry. So the other night I decided to make one of our favorites, my Cajun Chicken Sandwich. This is so easy to throw together last minute, and if you are like me, you probably already have most of the ingredients in your kitchen. By the way, have you noticed I have been on a Cajun kick with my egg salad and this? I also cooked jambalaya yesterday and hope to post that recipe for you soon.

To start on this sandwich, you will need one chicken breast, cut in half (this is for two servings). If your chicken is thick, you may want to pound it a little bit. Otherwise it will take a long time to cook, like mine did. Sprinkle Tony Chachere's Creole Seasonings on both sides of chicken. If you do not have Tony's in your pantry, get it now! It's delicious on so many things, it has great flavors and a little spice.

Place chicken in a skillet (or on the grill). Cook over medium-high heat (flipping halfway through) until chicken is cooked through. The times on this will vary depending on the thickness of your chicken. While chicken is cooking, take 2 hamburger buns, drizzle with olive oil and toast on a panini press or in your oven. I had wheat buns around and used those, but something like a ciabatta bun or other artisan bread would be even better.

When chicken is almost finished, top with sliced jarred jalapenos and a slice of cheese (American, cheddar, whatever you like or have in the fridge). Leave in pan or on grill until cheese melts. Then place on bun.

To add a little more flavor, I like to make a mayo to go on the sandwich. Stir together 1 cup of mayo, 1 tsp. worcestershire sauce, and 4-6 dashes of Tabasco (this will depend on how spicy you like it, so adjust to suit your tastes). Spread a little of this on each of the buns and anything leftover can be stored in the fridge.

This is a great meal for a busy weeknight or a weekend cookout with friends! 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pimiento Cheese Crostinis

This weekend I hosted a baby shower for a friend. I wanted to make something that would be easy to prepare ahead of time. So I decided to make Pimiento Cheese Crostinis. These are so easy to put together, and you can prep most of it a day in advance (I planned on doing that, but ended up working on all of it the morning of the shower). I was inspired by a recipe from Food & Wine to use my pimiento cheese on crostinis with bacon. I mean, you can never go wrong with bacon!

You will need:
  •  16 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2-2 oz. jars diced pimientos, drained
  • 5 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 8-12 slices of bacon
  • 2 baguette loaves
Place cheese, pimientos, mayonnaise, vinegar, and cayenne in a bowl and stir together. Add salt and pepper to taste. This pimiento cheese spread can be refrigerated overnight.

Sprinkle pepper on bacon and cook until crisp. Crumble bacon into small pieces and set aside.

Slice baguettes and lay slices on baking sheets. Spread pimiento cheese mixture onto bread and sprinkle with bacon. Bake in 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

This time I used half of the cheese mixture on one baguette. I saved the rest of the pimiento cheese to have on crackers or to make sandwiches.

These are so amazing and easy to make. It's the perfect appetizer for any party and is always a crowd-pleaser!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cajun Egg Salad

I love a good egg salad sandwich. It's one of those things I have always loved but often don't think to make. It's especially great for anytime you would like a sandwich but have no deli meat around. I almost always have the ingredients around and can make it easily.

Classic egg salad is good, but I enjoy mixing things up a bit. So if you are bored with plain egg salad, give my Cajun Egg Salad a try.

You will need:
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 2-3 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tbsp. yellow mustard
  • 2-4 dashes Tabasco pepper sauce
  • 2-3 generous dashes Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Chop eggs and place in bowl. Stir mayonnaise and mustard into eggs gently with a  spoon or small spatula. Start with smaller amounts and you can always add more to suit your taste. Add Tabasco and Creole seasoning. Tabasco is spicy, so if you prefer mild flavors, start with one dash and add more if needed (I prefer more). Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and stir all ingredients together.

I like to spread mine on toasted wheat bread. This recipe will make enough for 3-4 sandwiches, depending on how thick you spread it on.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Saturday in Santa Fe

On Saturday we went to Santa Fe with some friends for the morning. The husbands went skiing and the wives and kids went to breakfast and played around town. I love living so close to Santa Fe. It is one of my favorite cities to visit, and each time I go I seem to find something new to enjoy about it and of course, I love going back to all my old favorites too!

We decided to eat breakfast at Cafe Pasqual's, which has become one of my favorite spots. The atmosphere is colorful and lively and the service is friendly. Please excuse the poor photo quality above. I was wrestling a squirmy toddler while trying to take it. We did not have to wait for a table thankfully, which would have been difficult with three kids under the age of four. Shortly after we sat down, it became very busy and many people were waiting. So be prepared to wait, it is a very popular place! The food here is fresh, delicious and unique. I ordered the French Toast, which was good and my friend ordered the Huevos Barbacoa con Chile D'Arbol Salsa and it looked amazing. She loved it. I definitely want to try that next time. I have only been to Pasqual's for breakfast, so I cannot say what it would be like during dinner, for instance, but from our experience, it is very kid friendly. It's loud enough that you don't feel your chatty kiddos will disturb everyone, and the kids loved the colorful, festive decor. Plus, they loved the French toast I ordered!

Many people consider Santa Fe more of a destination for a romantic getaway, or a trip with friends. Although it is perfect for both, it is also a great place to bring your family. In warm weather, there is plenty of hiking and outdoor activities plus a nice plaza with a grassy area in the middle for kids to run around. In the winter you can ski or enjoy other winter activities like snow shoeing  or sledding.

The ski area at Santa Fe does not have a "village" like many ski towns. There are no hotels, shops, or other amenities such as that at the mountain, just a day lodge with a food court, ski rentals, etc. It's a 16 mile drive from town. Although some may see this as a disadvantage, for many groups and families, this is an ideal set up. If not everyone in your group will be skiing, there are plenty of other things for them to do in the town of Santa Fe. Also, the weather in town is generally pretty mild compared to the mountain, so for those who are not big fans of the snow and super cold weather, they can stay in town. Although the mountain is not as good as Taos or those in Colorado, Utah, and other areas, it is still good skiing. If you live in the Albuquerque area, this is a great option as it is relatively close. My husband and his friend left in the morning, skied a half day, and were back in the afternoon.

After breakfast my friend and I took our kids to the Santa Fe Children's Museum. This is a great option for families with young kids. It was my first time to visit, and I was very impressed. It is not as big as other children's museums we've been to in bigger cities, but there were still plenty of fun things for the kids to do. I am pretty sure they would have stayed there all day if we would have let them! It is one big open room, which is very nice if you have multiple children to keep an eye on! Admission is $9 per person unless you are a New Mexico resident, then it is $6.

I also took my friend to my favorite store, Design Warehouse. It is filled with beautiful, modern furniture, and fun accessories for the kitchen and the rest of the home, including items for children. It's a great spot to find fun gifts and inspiring modern design.

I look forward to more visits to Santa Fe in the future, whether for the day or a weekend, with the entire family, or for a romantic getaway, it is a great place!

Cafe Pasqual's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ugly Dip

When I was in college, I found a recipe which I believe was on the back of a bag of Mission tortilla chips. However, I no longer have the actual recipe, and I cannot find it anywhere online. When I make it now it is completely going off of memory (or lack thereof). So this may or may not be the original recipe, and if any of you happen to know the original source of this one, let me know so that I can give them credit.

The first time I made this in my college apartment I read the instruction to blend the ingredients together, and thought it was referring to a blender. Well, after breaking my roommate Heather's blender, I quickly realized that may not have been what was intended (sorry, Heather! I still feel bad about that). But don't worry, Heather is a very forgiving person and still one of my best friends!

After the above trial and error, I used a mixer and the results were much better. This dip was so delicious and is something I have continued to make over the years. I don't remember the original name, so now I call it "Ugly Dip." And if you look at the picture of it, you will understand why! But as your parents taught you, appearance isn't everything. So look beyond the bowl and give it a try!

You will need:

  • Two 8 oz. packages of cream cheese (I usually use the 1/3 less fat kind but only had regular around this time).
  • 1 envelope of taco seasoning, any brand will do
  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained

Place all the ingredients in your stand mixer or in a large bowl if using your hand mixer. Mix together until well blended.

And this is the ugly, yet delicious result. This is great for a party (just in time for the Super Bowl) because you can make it the day before and refrigerate it until party time. Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sweet Boy

Jack was walking around the other day dragging his blanket and carrying his stuffed monkey. I feel like this is the way I will always picture him, no matter how old he gets or how much taller than me he becomes. He will always be my sweet little boy.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Snow Day Lunch

Today was pretty chilly here in Albuquerque and I did not have much in the fridge for lunch. It snowed this afternoon and I wanted something warm. I had a can of turkey chili from Trader Joe's so I decided to have that. If you shop at Trader Joe's much, you have probably been there when they are passing out samples of this chili. It's pretty tasty, especially for canned chili. It's a great thing to have stocked in your pantry for those days when you don't have time to cook or do not have much available to cook something from scratch.

Just empty the chili into a pot and heat over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes or until it's heated through. I like to add a little Tabasco to mine while heating it up to add some spice. It's pretty mild on it's own. One can will serve 1-2 people, depending on how hungry you are. Serve it with grated cheese, corn chips, and jalapenos.

Homemade chili will always be best, but this is a good alternative!

Cha Chi's

Do you have certain restaurants that hold a special place in your heart? These places are usually those that bring about good memories of great food, good times with friends and family, and a special place and time in your life.

For me, one of those places is Cha Chi's in Las Cruces, New Mexico. After graduating from college, I lived and worked in Las Cruces for three years. It is the place where Josh and I began dating, were engaged, and spent our first year of marriage. So, naturally, Las Cruces is a special place for us. One of the things we loved most about Las Cruces is the delicious New Mexican food. There were so many wonderful places to eat fresh, flavorful, spicy dishes. We could have eaten out everyday! Among those restaurants, one of our favorites was Cha Chi's. We would often go there for breakfast burritos on Saturday mornings, and for tacos, burritos, and everything else for lunch and dinner throughout the week.

The two best things about Cha Chi's (in our opinions), are the chips and salsa and the horchata. Their salsa has a rich, spicy, flavor and a deep red hue. I could eat it for days. Literally. It is my favorite salsa ever, and I am quite the salsa snob. If you are unfamiliar with horchata, it is a rice milk infused with flavors such as cinnamon. It can vary from place to place. This cool, sweet beverage is the perfect match for the spicy salsa.

When we were down in El Paso this weekend, Josh and I went up to Las Cruces for an afternoon to see friends. We picked up food to go from Cha Chi's to bring to our friends' house. Usually when I eat at Cha Chi's I order the chicken tacos al pastor. They are corn tortillas filled with flavorful grilled chicken and cilantro. So simple, yet so delicious. It comes with three tacos and beans and rice. It's plenty of food, so Josh and I usually split it (which also makes our meal inexpensive). This time, however, Josh wanted a burrito, so I decided to get one too. I ordered a chicken burrito smothered with red chile and cheese. It was very good, but the chicken tacos al pastor are still my favorite!

If you live near Las Cruces or just happen to be driving through sometime, give Cha Chi's a try. It is delicious, flavorful, and budget friendly!


Cha Chi's on Urbanspoon

El Paso Eats

This weekend we went down to El Paso to visit my parents. They lived in East Texas for almost thirty years, until last summer when my dad was offered a job in El Paso. We were so excited for them to move nearby! To some of you, having your parents 3 1/2 hours away seems far, but to me, it's the closest I have lived to them since graduating from high school!

Many people seem to give El Paso a bad rap. They think it's just some dirty border town out in the middle of nowhere. And I must admit, I was among these people until I actually visited the city for the first time while in college. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered it is a beautiful, unique, international city. The Franklin Mountains and desert landscape set it apart from almost any other city in Texas, and the influence of the cultures of Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico give it character unlike any other place. It's also a much bigger city than most people assume. The population of El Paso is 665,000, and it's neighboring city of Juarez, Mexico has over 1 million residents. So El Paso has a much more urban feel than you might imagine.

One thing my parents love about El Paso and I enjoy while visiting, is the seemingly endless number of great restaurants. And not just Mexican food. On Saturday night, my parents watched Jack for us, so Josh and I went to dinner at Cafe Italia. It's a great little neighborhood brick oven pizzeria. We ordered the Smoked Pizza which had bell peppers, Italian sausage, and smoked mozzarella (I did not take any pictures, sorry). It was plenty for both of us, we finished it and were full afterward. If you have more of an appetite, I have heard their salads are good as well. And at $15, it was a great deal! They do not serve alcohol, but are BYOB with a $5 bottle charge. If we would have known this ahead of time, we definitely would have brought our own bottle. The service was fast and friendly, and although the decor was nothing to write home about, the atmosphere was nice as it was full of happy diners.

On Sunday we were planning on going to brunch at Crave, which is one of my parents' favorite restaurants, but the wait was 20 minutes, and with a toddler in tow, we did not want to wait. So we headed to Basico Bistro, which is a newer place near my parents' house. The atmosphere is modern, bright, and hip. The large windows not only let in plenty of southwestern sun but also provide beautiful views (as you can see in the picture above of Jack, my mom, and me).

Before our meal they brought out lovely homemade biscuits. They had a nice, sweet flavor. For brunch I had the Basico Benedict. It was a nice, classic Eggs Benedict. My mom had the same. We both enjoyed it. My dad and brother ordered the omelet of the day which was green chile and cheese and both liked it. Josh had the smoked salmon omelet and enjoyed it as well.

The brunch at Basico was very good, the service was great and the atmosphere was wonderful. I look forward to trying it for lunch and dinner in the near future as well.

 Básico Bistro+Café on Urbanspoon

Cafe Italia on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Last night I made an easy pot roast in the slow cooker. I like making this because it's a "one pot" meal. The meat and sides are all in one place. Prep is simple, and it tastes great! I made this recipe, which is a usual at our house.  I just change it up a bit. I use one package of baby carrots instead of sliced carrots to make it even easier. I also add an onion when I have one. This time I roughly chopped 1/2 an onion that I had leftover from another recipe. And I like to top it with chopped fresh parsley.

This roast is so easy and very good. It's perfect for days when you are busy or working because it can stay in the slow cooker all day. You can go about your business and come home to a house that smells wonderful and a meal that is ready to go!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Vietnamese Chicken Sandwich

Last night I made this Vietnamese Chicken Sandwich. I found the recipe in this month's issue of Cooking Light. The only things I changed were using a chicken breast instead of chicken cutlets (I sliced it in half horizontally to make it thinner), and only topping it with shredded carrots (just personal preference and my cilantro had gone bad).

This recipe was simple, fast, and very good. I am looking forward to having the leftovers for lunch today!

Open Faced Prosciutto and Egg Sandwich

Yesterday morning I was inspired to use what I had in my kitchen to make an open faced prosciutto and egg sandwich for breakfast. Well, actually, I was inspired the night before and went to bed thinking about it. I rarely have much happening in my brain when my sweet son wakes me up before sunlight.

I sliced a baguette in half horizontally, drizzled it with olive oil, and grilled it on my panini press. Then I placed provolone cheese and prosciutto on top. I fried an egg over easy on the panini press as well (minimal clean up), placed it on top of the prosciutto, and sprinkled with pepper.

This was so good and easy! Although, it was not the peaceful, calm morning I was hoping for. I imagined myself slowly enjoying my breakfast, drinking my coffee, and reading articles online (I guess I was still in dreamland). But once I had the sandwich made and snapped the last photograph, the demands of the morning got in the way. So I slapped one piece of bread on top of the other (meaning it was no longer and "open-faced" sandwich) and scarfed it down. At least I got to eat it, right?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Morning Juice

I made juice for breakfast the other morning. This time I used carrots, oranges, lemons, blueberries, and spinach. It was really good!

Everything pictured above made enough juice for Josh and me plus a little for Jack. It's one of the only ways I can get him have his veggies!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Eggless Pancakes

On Sunday morning I told Jack I would make some pancakes for breakfast. And he got very excited. So I went in my kitchen, and to my dismay, realized we had no eggs. So I did what any 21st century mom would do and Googled "no egg pancakes" (what did people do before the internet?). I found a recipe for Fluffy Eggless Pancakes and decided to give it a whirl. 

I did not have vegetable oil so I substituted canola oil for that, and I decided to throw in some blueberries since I had a lot. These turned out very good. This is definitely a recipe I will use again. I think I still like pancakes with eggs a little better, but this is a great options for those mornings you are out of eggs or for people with allergies, etc.

Somebody else liked them too...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Salsa Verde

The other night I decided to Google "Top Food Blogs." Although I have been at this off and on for awhile and read a few food blogs, there are still so many out there. I was amazed at all the wonderful blogs there are. So many great recipes, beautiful photographs, and varying points of view. Saveur magazine had a great list of their top rated food blogs for 2012 in different categories. 

One of the many blogs I enjoyed discovering on their list was a finalist for "Best Regional Food Blog." It is called Muy Bueno Cookbook. The Spanish name intrigued me, and as I perused the lovely blog I saw that it was a mother and her two daughters, all born and raised in El Paso, Texas. Sold. That was all I needed to hear. And sure enough, as I looked over the recipes, the beautiful photos and authentic border cuisine piqued my interest all the more. I "pinned" many of the recipes to try later. Last night I attempted their salsa verde. It was very easy to make and delicious. Even Josh, who is not ordinarily a fan of tomatillos enjoyed it.

You can find the full recipe on their blog, but I thought I would share a few pictures and tips. I have pictured all of the ingredients except the cilantro, which I forgot about when snapping this shot. But you all know what cilantro looks like, right?

If you are new to Mexican cooking, you may look at this recipe and others and wonder what some of the ingredients are and where you might find them. For instance, serrano peppers look like a jalapeno pepper, just a little smaller. They are also much spicier than jalapenos, so if you prefer your salsa mild, remove all the seeds and/or replace jalapenos for the serranos. You can always adjust the number of peppers in your salsa to change up the level of spice. And remember, the seeds and membrane of peppers are the spiciest part. So leaving or removing them will also effect the level of spice. Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes with a light green husk around them. You can find them in the produce section of most grocery stores by the peppers. I have only ever bought them in Texas and New Mexico, so they may be harder to find in some places.

When cooking with tomatillos, you need to begin by removing the husk, which is very easy. Then give them a good rinse. They tend to be a little sticky.

In this recipe, you will boil the tomatillos. Some salsa verde recipes require roasting them which takes a little longer, so this is a great way to simplify it.

This recipe also says to roast the garlic cloves with their skin on in a dry pan. I had never heard of this method, but it worked well, so I may have to do it again. It was very easy. I heated the pan over medium-high heat. Remove the skin when you are finished.

Then place them along with the cooled tomatillos in a blender with cilantro, onion, jalapeno, serrano and salt and blend.

This was great salsa and a wonderful alternative from the usual tomato salsa (which I still love, but it's nice to mix things up every once in awhile).

I enjoyed mine with a nice frosty Wildflower Wheat Beer from local Marble Brewery. Not a bad way to kick back and relax.

Smart Shopping

Do you ever feel like your grocery budget is the most difficult portion of your finances to get control of? I rarely make a specific grocery budget and when I am in the store I often become the queen of impulse purchases. Add an active toddler to the mix, and grocery shopping becomes even more complicated. Sometimes I feel like I am training for Supermarket Sweep. Remember that show?

Over time I have learned a few things about shopping smarter when it comes to groceries. I still have a lot to learn, and I have to admit, we have yet to set a specific grocery budget. Guess that should be my New Year's Resolution. But I have discovered ways to plan my shopping trips to make the most of sales, coupons, etc. So I figured I would share some tips to help you and your family save money. Most of these are nothing new, and many I have read in financial books, blogs, magazines, etc. It's a little lengthy, but hopefully you will find it beneficial. So here goes:

  1. Make a list and stick to it. This seems basic, but how many times do you run into the store after work or in the middle of other errands without specific items in mind? When you do this, impulse spending goes up drastically. I notice when I impulse buy, it is usually unhealthy items too. It also makes your trip to the store longer because you stroll the aisles trying to remember that last item, waiting for an epiphany while staring at rows of cereal (am I the only one who has done this?). I have found the Grocery IQ app on my iPhone extremely helpful for this. It allows me to make separate lists for each store that I frequent and as I shop I can easily delete items. I can also easily transfer items from one store to another if I find it's unavailable where I originally planned to buy it. I like this because it means I always have my list with me (assuming I have my phone, which I rarely forget). So if I make a last minute trip to the store, I don't have to remember my list. It's helpful when I think of something to add to a grocery list because I can add it no matter where I am and not have ten different pieces of paper with lists. I am sure there are many other apps which would be just as good, this is just one I found a few years ago and have loved.
  2. Shop the sales. Each week, your local stores should send out their "circular." This has all of their specials for the week. Here in Albuquerque, I receive most of them in the mail on Wednesday, and the sales run for a week. Some stores, like Target, release theirs on Sundays. Although some of these come in the mail, others do not. They may appear in your Sunday paper, and almost all of them are online. So check the websites for the stores in your area. I also like the Target app for iPhone and iPad because you can easily peruse their circulars on those devices. When items are at a very low price, especially things like meat and bread, buy large quantities and freeze them. Our freezer is small so we recently bought an inexpensive deep freezer to keep in our garage. I like having this for this very reason (and because I needed extra space to store all of my green chile)! We found ours at Lowe's for around $200 (I can't remember the exact price and it's not online). It's the Holiday 7 cu. ft. chest freezer. There is also one that is 5 cu. ft., which now I realize would probably have been plenty of room, but oh well!
  3. Be willing to shop at several stores. It's easy to find the one store that you like best either because it's the one closest to your house, the one that seems to have the best prices, or if you're like me, the one that has the best atmosphere (I know, it's ridiculous). For some people, like those of you working full time with a family, activities, etc., it may not be feasible to do this. But if you do have the time, shopping at different stores can save you money. After a few months in Albuquerque, my regular stores became Albertson's, Costco, Target, and Trader Joe's. This is based on location, prices, and personal preference. I love Trader Joe's. They have great prices, it's small and easy to get in and out of (this is a huge plus when you are shopping with a toddler), they have a great selection of healthy products, and it's close to my house (and the great selection of cheap wine is a major plus). However, if you have shopped at Trader Joe's, you know that you cannot find everything there. I love that it is small, but that means a more limited selection. And I feel like their produce is hit or miss. And they do not have sales or accept coupons, so their prices are always the same. Some of the prices are great, but some items you are better off purchasing elsewhere. Target has good prices on pantry items and some frozen foods, they also have weekly deals in their circular, and they accept coupons. So I go their for specific items. I buy almost all of our baby stuff like diapers and wipes there as well. However, their produce selection is small (at least at the one near my house) and usually much more expensive. Costco is good when you need items in larger quantities (obviously). They have a good selection of produce with decent prices which I really liked when we did our Reboot and I needed lots of fruits and veggies. But most of the time, I don't need such large quantities for just the three of us. Costco sends out monthly coupons, and if you check those, sometimes they have great deals. I like getting things like macaroni and cheese, snack items, and other non-perishables. Albertson's is the most expensive of these three if you don't shop the sales, but if you do, you can get great deals. This is where I buy most of my meat and a good amount of my produce. They also accept coupons and occasionally run a double coupon special. Figuring out the best places to shop in your area can take time. Shop around, check prices, and compare each store. You will begin to find which stores have the best prices for the items you buy most. Another store that I have recently started shopping at is Sprouts. I didn't go much until recently because it was just a little more out of the way. But as I looked at their circulars each week I noticed their sales on produce especially were excellent. So this is a new favorite. Also, on Wednesdays they honor sale prices from the new circular and the one from the previous week. So if you can plan it out right, you can get some great deals. The picture above is from my most recent trip to Sprouts. I bought all of those items for $35.91. Most of the fruits and veggies were on sale, as well as the tortilla chips. The sweet potato chips and crackers were not on sale, so I could have spent less if I wouldn't have made those impulse buys. But, you get the idea. Below is my receipt just to give you an idea of the breakdown.
  4. Use coupons. This is a no brainer for some, but for others it seems like a waste of time or something that only the crazy people on Extreme Couponing do. But you can do this without spending too much extra time and it can save you a lot. My main rule with coupons is do not use a coupon just because you have it! If you do not normally buy something, don't get it only because you have a coupon. That is not going to save you money. And look at the prices at the store, it may be cheaper, for instance, to buy the store brand of paper towels without a coupon than to buy the name brand with one. Your Sunday paper should have coupons, but if you are like me and do not get the Sunday paper, you will need to find them elsewhere. I have some friends that get it and do not use most of the coupons, so I ask them to save them for me each week which they are very sweet to do! There are also many websites with coupons. I go to Coupon Suzy and each month to print out coupons. Each have coupons for many different brands. You will need to install a program on your computer in order to print them, but it is very simple, and the instructions are on those sites. Once you do it for one of them it should work for any coupon site. On these sites you just click the coupons you want and it will print them for you. It only takes me about five minutes. Many brands offer coupons on their websites too, so if there are certain items you buy frequently, go to their website and check it out. There are also store coupons from places like Target. Go to their website to print them out. In addition to those on their site, you can sign up on their website to have mobile coupons sent to you via text. When you check out, show your phone to the person working there, and they will scan the coupons directly from your phone. When using store coupons, most stores will allow you to use them along with manufacturer coupons. So, for instance, if I have a manufacturer coupon for $1 off a box of Pampers and a Target coupon for $1 off a box of Pampers, I can use both and receive $2 off. And while we are on the subject of diapers, this is what I usually do: Target often runs sales where you get a $5 Target gift card when you buy two boxes of diapers (I prefer Pampers, but they do this with Huggies too). So when they have these sales, I try to time it with my manufacturer's coupons and Target coupons if I have them. Sometimes I save around $10 when I add up the coupons and gift card I receive. Albertson's also will double coupons (up to $1) occasionally. This will be indicated on the front of their circular.
  5. Check the price per ounce. This is usually on the price tag on the shelf at the store in small print, of course. One brand or size may have a lower price tag, but when you look at the price per oz./unit, another brand might be a better deal.
  6. Bring your own bags! It's better for the environment and you save $.05 per bag most places. I know it isn't much, but if you think of how many bags you use per year, it adds up! I also like bringing my own bags because you can fit more in each bag, which means less bags to load and unload!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Turkey, Avocado & Cheese Sandwich

Lately I have been making a variation of this sandwich on a daily basis. Provolone cheese, turkey, avocado, and creamy thousand island dressing on wheat. I cook it in the panini press. So easy. Yum!

Baked Cheesey Jalapeno Ranch Dip

The other night as my healthy Aloo Gobi was filling my home with delicious smells while it cooked away in my slow cooker, my stomach began to grumble and I noticed it still had a few hours left to cook. So, rather than making a healthy choice to have a light snack, I went the complete opposite route. Well, I guess I could have made something worse, but I know this wasn't exactly the best choice. But it was pretty tasty.

I was in the mood for something warm and savory, so I thought of everything I had in our fridge and pantry (well we don't technically have a pantry in our little kitchen, but you know what I mean). I decided to create what I have named my Baked Cheesey Jalapeno Ranch Dip. I orginally thought it would include bacon (which I will try next time), but alas, my bacon was no longer good. At least that meant it was a little healthier...

So, if you want to give this one a try, you will need:
  • 1 tbsp. ranch dip mix
  • 1 8 oz. package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp. light sour cream
  • 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 c. jarred jalapenos, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley or dill 
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix on medium low speed with paddle attachment until completely blended. You could also use a hand mixer.

Spread into small baking dish. I used a small Le Creuset dish I have. It's probably about 8" x 5".  FYI, I found it at Marshall's a few years ago for $9.99.  If you're ever in need of cookware, check there and Home Goods before you buy anything full price. You can find some great deals. Then place in 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

After removing from oven sprinkle with fresh parsley (or dill). Enjoy with corn chips or tortilla chips. This will make about 2-4 servings (depending on how hungry you are). I think there are many ways you could mix this up, like adding crumbled bacon or using green chiles instead of jalapenos, just to name a few.