Monday, December 29, 2014

Warm Banana and Coconut Bowl

So Christmas is over and the Pinterest boards and Yahoo articles and advertisements are filling up with exercise routines and weight loss challenges and work out clothes. It kind of makes my head spin--like we're a bunch of schizo lunatics on some trippy joy ride. Hey--Let's eat too much chocolate and ham until our stomachs bloat and our fingers swell and we feel kind of like crap. But we won't stop. Well, not until we decide to do the four-day juice fast and choose (of all body parts?) to focus on the intense exercising of our inner thighs. And then we'll give up whole food groups at a time or adapt recipes made with sugar to recipes made with...wait for it...maple syrup. This lunacy continues on to about February when everyone either has yoyo-ed back to a normal weight or given up. I sound kinda judge-y, don't I? I don't mean to. Honestly, I don't. It's just that I've driven to crazy town and back a time or two in my life. I did not eat any fat in all my high school years except for these occasional "binge days" when I would eat all and everything I wanted. In college I did a couple of sugar free years (better than the no-fat thing, I think, but still a focus on restriction that employed many fake sugars so I could get an occasional sweet fix). And this type of disordered eating--it's just not the place I think we should all be aiming for (and pinning) right now (or ever). So I'm trying to be helpful, not judge-y, and to speak from the voice of experience--of past disordered eating. Please forgive me if I've missed the mark there and come off sounding like a total jerk (at least I could try to sound like a funny jerk, right).

Ironically, the recipe today is Paleo, Vegetarian, Void of refined sugar, and involves plenty of Coconut. People, it's positively righteous. But I'm not posting it for those reasons. I'm posting it because it tastes good. And it's wicked quick (like, 60 seconds) to make. Easy. One bowl. One serving (but can be made for more). And it tastes good. And, yes, it does leave you feeling better after eating than you did before. That, I suppose, is the goal I'm shooting for. Most wholesome food gets us there, and occasionally a really good treat.

The truth is that I actually discovered this little snack/meal in December one super busy Saturday night when I came home from singing at a nativity exhibit, then shopping for presents (in heels--oh the agony; how do women do it) and then hurrying home to rush my son and his friends over to the church to clean up from the nativity exhibit. I was starving, but already running late and I had three tweenage boys waiting for their ride. This meal was like heaven--satisfying, healthy, but light enough to eat at 7:00 pm without regretting it. It can be an instant breakfast as well, or healthy dessert, or a post workout snack. It can be anything you want it to be (maybe it should move to Vegas).

So try it. I hope you like it. Also--don't let the whole "warm banana thing" frighten to you. They're very lightly warmed--just enough to bring out a bit of sweet comfort-food-ness, not warm enough to be, like, you know banana mush.

Warm Banana and Coconut Bowl
adapted from Fast Paleo
serves: 1
prep time: 60 seconds
Cost: $.75
banana: .15, coconut milk: .25, pecans: .25, coconut: .10

1 ripe banana (yes, ripe)--cut into "coins"
1/4 C coconut milk (canned or other)
2 Tbsp pecans
1-2 Tbsp shredded coconut (unsweetened works just fine)
a drizzle of maple syrup (optional) (you could also use a sprinkle of any sugar of your choice)

Combine all of this (except maple syrup) in a bowl. Nuke it for 30 seconds. Stir it. Add the maple syrup if it's not sweet enough for you, although taste it first because you might be surprised.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Chocolate Sugar Cookies That Keep Their Shape

I'm gonna be honest here. When I saw these on Pinterest, I didn't think they'd work. If they did work, I figured they would be chalky and dry and gross. Nope and Nope and Nope. They're delicious--almost Oreo-cookie-esque  (my humble opinion is that they're better than Oreo-esque). And they absolutely DO keep their shape. My old boring sugar cookies (which I've never managed to perfect btw) just got butt-kicked to the curb.

The secret? It took me a sec to figure it out when I looked over the recipe--we're always blaming butter and what-not for cookies spreading. But no. This has more butter than you'll care to admit and plenty of sugar too. Lots of cocoa? Check. But. But. NO LEAVENING. I mean, it's so obvious, right? If you want a cookie to keep it's shape--you don't add the agent that will make it poof up. As an added bonus, removing the leavening from your cookies is going to keep the flavor more pure because when you add leavening to a baked good, it reacts (which is what makes it leaven and all) and that sometimes causes a flavor change. I don't notice this flavor change in most baked goods, but you know where I do notice it? Sugar cookies. That's why I always love the dough of standard sugar cookies, but end up not really liking the actual baked cookies of standard sugar cookies--the leavening has reacted and created a flavor that I dislike in sugar cookies. Not in these babies. No leavening means no weird taste/aftertaste. These are delicious.

(See those lines, people. This is a cooked cookie. I always wondered why cookie cutter makers even made cookie cutters with those lines that would inevitable blur out in the baking process. Now my lined cookie cutters have new purpose. They thank you, new sugar cookie recipe.) 

And, you know what, I'm totally going to try this with my normal sugar cookies--I'm going to see what happens when I take the leavening out. Will the finished product taste just as good as the dough? Let's hope so.

For now, I give you these fabulous chocolate sugar cookies. Not only are they fabulous tasting and un-spreading, they're super simple with only a few ingredients. And they really do taste a lot like the chocolate parts of Oreo cookies. So, naturally, if you want them to taste even more like an Oreo cookie, you're going to frost them with this like we did. You're welcome.

You can also add mints if you want to. Especially for the cookies that your frosted ugly (but delicious) style. 

Chocolate Sugar Cookies That Keep Their Shape
from Sweetopia
Makes 3 dozen
Prep time: 10 minutes
Chill time: 1 hour
Cut time: depends on whether it's just you and the elf on the shelf or if you're including your children in this process; just don't start too late at night with young kids or you'll be ready to rip off some Santa cookie heads in a mad rage before the evening's over. Not that I know from experience or anything
Cook time: 6-8 minutes unless you make these babies thick (which you CAN do because they don't spread--hurray)
Cost: $2.00 (or about $.06/cookie
butter: 1.00, sugar: .20, egg: .10, flour: .20, cocoa: .40, vanilla: .10

1 C butter
1 C sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
3/4 C cocoa
1/4-1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix butter and sugar until combined, but you're not going to "cream" it per se (you're not going to beat it until you get a bunch of air in and its light and fluffy because you're trying to avoid that with these cookies).

Add egg and beat in. Add vanilla and beat in.

Combine flour, cocoa, and salt. Beat these into the wet ingredients. Again--don't overmix--just beat until it's combined and kind of clumping together.

Take it and roll it into a ball. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or longer).

When you're ready, flour the table (flour it well, friends) and then roll out your dough. It can be thin or thick--we went for medium and did ours about 1/8 inch thick.

Place on cookie sheet as you get them done. Then place the cookie sheet in the fridge for 10 minutes (Note: This was part of the directions from the original recipe; It was meant to help them hold their shape more perfectly. I followed it for my first two pan-fuls and then ran out of steam and just threw the third pan in the oven when I was done cutting. I did not notice a perceptible difference between the chilled and not-chilled cookies, so if you want to check your anal-retentive at the door, feel free.)

Bake for 6-8 minutes. If your cookies are quite thick, you'll want to add a couple more minute.

Remove from oven. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then take off of cookie sheet (leave too long and they kind of stick and get harder to remove).

Frost or decorate as desired. We had to do this the next day since by 7:30 that night, I was ready to behead some Santas. We used my favorite Vanilla Butter Frosting. You should too. Unless you're dieting. In which case, shame on you for even reading this post, you food porn pervert.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Asian Brussels Sprouts

If you ask most people, they'll tell you they don't like brussels sprouts. That's because they've never really had brussels sprouts. They've only ever had soggy little cabbage balls. Or perhaps they haven't even had those--they've only had the idea of soggy little cabbage balls in this woefully slandered member of the broccoli family. At any rate, before you pass judgment, you should make these. They are fabulous beyond fabulousness. They are like the brussels sprouts you thought you knew went to Hollywood and made it big (minus the plastic surgeries).

Asian Brussels Sprouts
adapted from The Baker Mama
serves 2-4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Cost: $2.00
brussels sprouts: 1.50, other stuff: .50 (yeah, I'm totally guessing here; sorry)

1 lb brussels sprouts
3 Tbsp canola oil
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp Sriracha sauce
pinch black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set a rack on the top (yup--top).

Cut sprouts in half and remove any leaves that are wilty or falling off.

Spread brussels sprouts on a cookie sheet. Coat with oil and sprinkle with satl.

Place on TOP rack for 40-60 minutes, stirring them every 15 or 20 minutes to ensure that all sides get browned and crispy.

During the last 10 minutes of cooking, put other ingredients in a pot and boil them until they reduce into a thicker sauce (about 5 minutes)

Remove sprouts from oven and brush with the sauce. I did this with a pastry brush and it worked perfectly. You'll likely have leftover sauce. You can use this for dipping if you wish.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Oatmeal Cream Pies

This month I joined a Cookie Carnival (as part of Secret Recipe Club), which is a group of bloggers who make each others cookies in December and then blog about them. I got the blog Join Us, Pull Up a Chair. It's written by Heather who is a mother, blogger, business woman, and she has a full time job. I'm going to bed now. No wait, because I have to tell you about these cookies which were everything I'd hoped they'd be and more. Truly, I had NO problem picking my cookie.

I picked these oatmeal cream pies because I used to love the Little Debbie version. I have many memories of coming home after school, climbing up on my counter, and stealing them from the cupboard where my mom kept them. In defense of this questionable behavior, let me distract you from myself and point the finger at someone else and say that I also have plenty of memories of my parents snarfing them down. So there we go.

Even though I haven't had a Little Debbie cream pie in years, anything that professes to be a better, homemade version can catch my eye. Now it can catch yours too. These are one of the best cookies I've made in a while. And I like to make cookies. They are way way better than any oatmeal cream pie you'll buy in a store. And you don't have to change out of your pajamas to enjoy them.

Oatmeal Cream Pies
from Join Us, Pull Up a Chair
Makes about 20 cream pies
Prep time: about 20 minutes
Cook time: 10-12 minutes
Cost: $2.65
oats: .20, flour: .10, butter: .50, sugar: .10, brown sugar: .20, egg: .10, cream cheese: 1.00, confectioner's sugar: .10, maple syrup: .25, other spices: .10

1 1/2 C rolled oats
1 C flour (I used all purpose)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C light brown sugar
1 egg

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 C confectioners sugar
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350.

In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.

In a separate bowl, cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add in egg. Then add flour mixture until well combined. Stir in oats by hand.

Roll batter into balls (about 1-2 Tbsp worth). Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly browned (on bottom).

Allow to cool completely.

While it's cooling, make the filling. Beat cream cheese with confectioner's sugar until smooth. Add maple syrup until combined.

When cookies are cool, plop a tablespoon or so of filling between the flat sides of the cookies.

They're amazing.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Jewelry in a Candle Tart--a Gift Craft

So this isn't quite a recipe, but a month or so ago, I developed a tiny obsession with candles that come with jewelry in them. It's like Cracker Jacks meets the lottery because there's a chance that instead of a cheap piece of jewelry in your candle, you'll get a nice, expensive piece of jewelry. But cheap or not, there was something thrilling about burning a candle and then seeing a bit of foil peek out of the wax--foil that contains a prize. (Okay, not everyone gets this, but if you are a prize or surprise person, you probably do.) After a foray into the candled jewelry world, I had a huge and awesome couponing streak with these candles and got several for nearly free. Naturally, my three girls also became obsessed with this concept, but none of the rings I got ever fit their tiny fingers. There were other companies that sold candles and tarts (wax without a wick that you melt in a melter/warmer) with things like necklaces and earrings in them, but I already had all the candles I needed for cheap and didn't want to pay for more. I also--for the record--had earrings that I'd been planning to give for Christmas (sterling silver ones, which are often better quality than what you'll get in a gamble of a candle jewelry).

Enter brilliant idea. I would make my own little tarts for them to melt in our melter. They get the fun and the jewelry. I get the cheapness.

You can too. Because this is pretty easy. If you've got someone in your life who loves jewelry, nice smells, and surprises, this will be a triple win for you.

Also, it'd be a cool way to propose. Just melt that tart throughout dinner gentlemen.

1. First you melt your wax. You can use a cheap candle you buy for this. Or if you've got old candles lying around your house (who doesn't) that are used or nearly used up, you can use these. You put the candles on a candle warmer (Note: If you don't have one, put them in your crock pot and set it to low--this is what I did.) Melt the wax.

2. While it's melting, prepare your jewelry. Put it in some type of tiny Ziploc bag. I had little ones left over from other jewelry I've received at various points of my life, but if you don't, a small Ziploc bag or even some tightly wrapped Saran wrap will probably work. Put the jewelry in the tiny bag and seal it up tight.

3. Then wrap this tightly in aluminum foil till it's a sweet little square.

4. Put this at the bottom of an ice cube tray (or how ever you can get it to fit).

5. Pour your melted wax into the tray and let it cool.

6. When it is thoroughly cool--not just rehardened, but cool--it should come easily out of the ice cub tray.

7. Now bag it up and wrap it. If you're a cute person, you'll bag it all cute and wrap it with a bow and stuff. If you're me, you'll throw it in a Ziploc bag and call it good.

Note: Not going to do any of this, but intrigued by the idea of a candle with a ring in it. Here's a link for 20% off from Diamond Candles.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sugared Cranberries

These were one of those things that could be both decoration and snack. It's pretty easy too, although it does take a little sugar soak the night before.

When you bite into them, there's this delightful snap/pop thing that happens. And a sweet sour thing going on. I love them.

Sugared Cranberries
adapted from Kleinworth and Co.
Prep time: overnight soak, plus 15 minutes, plus hour rest
Cost: $1.75
cranberries: 1.50, sugar: .25

1 C sugar
1 C water
2 C cranberries
3/4 C sugar

Heat sugar and water in a pot until sugar is dissolved (try not to boil, but if you do, the world probably won't end; you just don't want to hard candy your syrup). Then let that cool (if you put the cranberries in when it's hot, they'll pop open). After it's cooled, add cranberries. You're going to leave them in this sugar water to soak overnight, so be sure they're all submerged. This will keep your cranberries from being intensely sour--they'll still be a bit sour, mind you, but not as sour as plain old cranberries rolled in sugar would have been.

Soak them for 8 hours or overnight.

When you're ready, strain off the sugar syrup (or use it for some other purpose), and let your cranberries dry just a bit. You don't want them dripping wet. You want them a little damp or tacky.

Now roll them in sugar. I did this by putting the sugar on a plate and shaking those berries around till they were coated. It worked perfectly.

Let them sit for an hour or so so that they sugar can set. Then put them in something pretty and throw a party.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Locals: Nabisco Chocolate Wafers

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Local readers--If you're in need of Nabisco Chocolate Wafers (and trust me, you need them even if you don't know you need them yet), they are on sale right now at Schnucks. (And by on sale I do mean 'being sold' not 'selling for a fabulously low price'). So sorry that they're not super cheap. But they are super awesome. And in some cases they are the only cookie that can be used to perfect effect in certain recipes. And here I'm thinking of this one. Which is my favorite dessert recipe of all time and will probably be yours too if you buy the darn cookies already. Stock up.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Easy Lollipops

You guys know I'm not Princess Crafty, right? If you don't, then I'm going to assume that you are legally blind. At any rate, for our Mom-run preschool, I had the letter 'L' and I always say nothing says Love Like Lollipops. Okay, I never say that, but wouldn't it be great if I did for letter L week. Anyway, I was looking on the internet for "Easy Lollipop" recipes and, folks, I was not finding easy recipes. I was finding the types of recipes that need a candy thermometer and lollipop molds and silicone sheets and--do you know how hot melted sugar gets--hotter than preschool-level hot--that's how hot.

So I turned to a little book I got my own preschooler for Christmas. It's called, Candy Aisle Crafts and is lovely. We got it from the library and Emma was obsessed with it. She'd look through the pictures and make requests. For weeks. Until I finally had to return it and she was sad. So I bought her her own for Christmas (shhhh). Now, in all honesty, some of the ideas in the book are what I like to call "sheer lunacy" (making polar bears from marshmallows types of things), but others--like the entire section on using hard candies to make simple lollipops--I must in all humility refer to as "sheer brilliance." You take hard candies (crushed or whole) and you arrange them over a lollipop-esque stick (we just used skewer type sticks), and you bake them and they come out all glued together and abstract art-ish and fabulous. The kids can help; they can arrange their candies in any old way they please. And then you pop them in the oven till they melt together. And then they cool. And that, my internet friends, is an easy lollipop. A kid-help-friendly lollipop. A lollipop that is easy to Like and Love and Lick and Linger on.

It is also a lollipop that can be easily and whimsically adapted to the holidays. To be honest, I'd choose one of these over a gingerbread house any day. With these I get almost no parental work and your kids still get the sugar orgy. Win!Win?

You can use them to decorate, to craft/eat with your kids, or to give as gifts if you have hard-candy loving friends. 

Here's what you do:
1. Preheat oven to 275.
2. Cover your baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. If you do not do this, your candy will stick and you will hate your life for at least several hours afterwards (possibly even a whole day).
3. Arrange your candies. Use any old stick you've got. We used skewers. You can use whole candies, or crush them. Naturally I opted for whole ones since crushing/breaking candies sounded like a lot of messy work.

4. Bake. Start with five minutes, and check, although if you're using hard Starlight mint style candies like we did, you can probably start checking at 8 of 9 minutes. Our lollipops took about 12 minutes total, but you do want to check yours if you're using different types of hard candy (say Jolly Ranchers) because if they melted too much they'd spread all over everywhere.

5. When they've melt-molded to your satisfaction, take them out, let them cool, and then they're good for eating, or using as decorations, or giving away.

Note: Try to use similar types of hard candy--say all Jolly Ranchers or all round mints. Why? Because different hard candies have different melting points and if they're not matched somewhat evenly, then some will be super spread when the others haven't begun to budge. We did try a bag of assorted candies and all had generally the same (or close enough melting points except the Werther's-style candies).

Note: Know that they shatter. After preschool, I found myself sweeping and mopping my floor. So don't let your kids wander around chomping on these unless you want peppermint speckled carpet for the holidays.

Note: If you plan to give them away, you may want to parcel them up in parchment paper for classic Christmas prettiness and for unstickiness.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dumb Easy Dinner: Thanksgiving Style

So if nobody's coming to my house for Thanksgiving, and I'm not going anywhere for Thanksgiving, this is what happens to me: I forget it's coming. It's kind of an unforgivable trait in a food blogger, but it's true. Exactly two days ago, I was like, "Wait. Thanksgiving is next week." Yup, that's how I roll.

Fortunately for me, I was already planning (and by planning, I do mean kind of sort of thinking about) doing a dumb easy dinner line up for Thanksgiving. Because sometimes you really are just planning a simple dinner for your own little family, but simple or not, you want it to taste amazing. I'd much rather make a few fabulous things for a small gathering than a booty load of food that comes out of cans. If you're not serving a crowd this year or are looking for a simple, but delicious side dish or pie, here you go.

1. Dumb Easy Chicken. No, it's not turkey and I'm wagering purists won't do it, but I'm not quite sure how to make turkey dumb easy simply because it is so huge (maybe a breast cooked in a crock pot???). But this roast chicken is easy and fabulous. It won't serve a crowd, but if you don't have a crowd, this only seems like an advantage (fact: Americans throw out $282 million dollars worth of edible turkey every year). Sometimes I'm pretty sure my kids can't tell the difference between turkey and chicken anyway.

2. Dumb Easy Cranberry Sauce. And, no, it's not out of a can. But it can be made ahead of time and is much more simple than you think. And worlds better than the canned crap.

3. Brussels Sprouts Salad. Best salad ever. Simple, adaptable, seasonal, mostly healthy. You can make this the day of. Or--it would be a perfect place for a bit of leftover cranberry sauce and turkey chunks.

4. 10-minute Green Beans. There's no can of anything soup. These are pretty fancy (though the picture I have up on the site is seriously ugly, so you'll need a tiny bit of faith, but it's delicious). Also, these just need a quick stir-fry on the stove. The big disadvantage of this dish is that it doesn't travel well, so if you're taking a side dish somewhere, it probably won't work for you.

5. Dumb Easy Chocolate Pie. Five minutes of prep time, people. That's it.  (Though you will need a chill time, so don't go making this 5 minutes before dessert, though it might be a lovely pudding if you do).

6. You'll also "need" as we all do some good mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. So have at it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sunrise Juice


I don't hate the winter; in fact, I kind of like it. But that doesn't mean there aren't those days that feel like a black and white postcard, only colder. To make matters worse, those days often come on the cusp of too much food or perhaps just the wrong types of food. Never fear, this juice will fill your life with a pop of color and nourish you while we're here. It comes in two versions. Both have a citrusy base with a bit of carrot. But one uses beet for fabulous color. It's seriously bright, dark pink and lovely. It does, however, have a bit of the beet flavor. If you don't like beets, you just won't like it. The other version uses ginger for fabulous fabulousness (seriously, if you ever have a cold or feel under the weather, drink this--you'll never need ginger ale again). This ginger version is my favorite juice I've ever made. It really is like ginger ale in juice form and is amazing. Also, it clears your sinuses and just is awesome. 

I realize that juicing can be a pain and that juicers can be expensive. I got a big juicer once off of freecycle. It was a score to be sure, but it's worth looking at freecycle or cheapcycle or craigslist. Juicers tend to be the types of things people buy in a fit of zealousness and then never use. I also have an attachment for my Magic Bullet (purchased from a yard sale by my husband, and possibly the best yard sale find ever). Even if you don't get it from a yard sale, a Magic Bull might be a worthwhile investment. The juicer attachment is small and super easy to use AND CLEAN (which is saying something for a juicer), and it can make a single-serving juice wonderfully. That said, you can enjoy the citrus of this juice with a simple (and much less expensive) citrus juicer (you can get the electric one for under $10 and the ones where you just press the orange onto the juicing top for probably a buck or two at Walmart). If you have no juicer at all, you could blend this with a glug of carbonated water, (and tell me how it turns out). 

Sunrise Juice
Makes about 1 C 
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cleaning up time: 5 minutes--yup, that's juicing; sorry
Cost: about $1
grapefruit: .40, orange: .40, carrot: .05, ginger: .05, beet: .15

1 grapefruit, peeled
1 orange, peeled
5 baby carrots, or half of a normal carrot
1 inch of ginger, peeled
1 very small beet or 1/4 of a normal beet, peeled

Juice it all in a juicer. 

Drink immediately. 

Note: If using a citrus juicer, but you want to add that ginger, try mincing it and letting it "steep" for a few minutes (by using one of those tea things) in the juice and then removing it. Might not have the same kick, but should give a little flavor. 

Note on juice: I'm not a hard-core juicer, but I do enjoy it and I consider home-made, non-pasteurized juice quite healthy. However, it does oxidize quickly, which means it becomes less nutritious the longer it sits (although a juice with a lot of citric acid like this will keep the nutrients longer than other juices). Also--the purists are going to tell you that you should always drink your juice alone and not with any solids. And you shouldn't eat a meal right after either. You're supposed to wait at least 15 minutes (or more) before having solid food. This is because they say that the benefit of juicing comes from the fact that the nutrients can get more quickly and efficiently into your blood/body without those solids slowing it down. I don't know if this is true, but if I can I try to drink my juice by itself. If I'm starving, however, I don't stress too much about eating food with it. It's still good for you. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Aldi--When Will a Sale Price End?

You guys know I love Aldi. One of the reasons I'm a not-great food couponer and don't have a Sam's membership is that I find that--for me--the prices at Aldi just usually can't be beat.

Here's a way to love Aldi more. Now you can know how long their sale items will be on sale. 

Note: Related, but unnecessary story you can skip if you want to move on to the next paragraph: A few weeks ago when I was at Aldi, I had limited funds. I needed to get what I needed and nothing else. However, the cream cheese was on sale for $.99 and my freezer stash is low and I was tempted to overspend a wee bit and stock up. However, I knew that if I could wait, it would be less tight for us financially (I know--my life is pretty exciting with very important and weighty decisions that must be made every day--"To save $.30/block of cream cheese or not to; that is the question.") So I asked my friendly neighborhood Aldi guy if it would be on sale next week or if was seasonal item (several of Aldi's items will be a lower price throughout the holiday season). And then he gave me a little piece of insider information that I thought would be helpful to you.

Often when Aldi has an item on sale, they'll put this white/red/yellow tag with red and white lettering on it. This is to draw attention to the item. You'll notice just left of the price, there are two smaller numbers. The bottom number is actually a date. The product will be on sale until that date.

See that 1118 to the left of the price on the bottom. That means these chocolate chips will be on sale until 11/18. 

But say you don't want or need chocolate chips before then (what--don't you want and need chocolate chips always?). Should you stock up anyway? Well, sometimes their stuff will stay on sale even longer--usually because it's some kind of seasonal buy. But how do you know. Underneath the white tag is a yellow tag. This is so that as soon as the sale ends, the employees can just whip off that white tag. Underneath is the normal old yellow tag. Sometimes that tag will go back up to the normal price. Other times, however--as with those seasonally cheap items--the yellow tag underneath also has the cheaper price so you know it will be at that price for a long time. The great thing is that the yellow tag is already there under the white tag, so you can take a peek.

Looks like this is a seasonal item. It's going to stay cheap for a while--probably through December and into January. 

So now we don't have to guess. If something is on sale, but we don't have the money this week, but will next week or next month, we'll know if we can still stock up or not.

Happy shopping and stocking!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dumb Easy Dessert (and a Picture Redo for Easy Chocolate Pie)

Most of the pictures from my early days of blogging are a little of what I'd like to call, well, ugly. Yet many of them are fabulous recipes--my tried and true classics.

Sunday, when I went to make an apple pie only to discover that 3/4 of my bag of apples (from Walmart--land of evil produce) were completely rotten--as in just rotted through after you peeled off the shiny red outside...Anyway, after that, I had a pie crust and no pie. So I decided to fill it with what we had. Which was chocolate. And I was reminded of this lovely and stupidly easy pie. I was also reminded that its picture was ugly.

Today I rectify that.

Easy Chocolate Pie

I also remind you that this pie filling takes only about 5-7 minutes of prep time. A graham cracker crust will add another 5. And then you chill it. You'll be finding it on my dumb easy Thanksgiving line up soon.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sweet and Sour Soup--Secret Recipe Club

When it gets colder, I crave soup. But what I often really really really crave is soup with that sassy combination of flavors that make up Thai soups. I love the kick of spices and peppers with the creamy coconut milk and a little sweet. It's kind of a meal that appeals to all our cravings in just one dish.

So when I had Morsels of Life this month for Secret Recipe Club, it wasn't hard for me to pick a recipe. This one jumped into my cold house like a--well, anyway, I can't think of a good simile--but I really wanted to make this soup.

And I did. And it was delicious. If you're afraid of Asian soups or cooking, don't be. This was kind of a nice little fusion soup--a little Asian, a little American. CJ. who writes Morsels of Life (and has a new baby--yay!), says that if you like a little more of something or less of something, then add it accordingly. I was making this for a nursing mom, so we scaled back the heat in order to keep her baby happy. I also didn't have any lemon grass and so I used a bit of lemon rind--worked wonderfully. Also, I completely forgot about the rice noodles. I had them; they just never made it into this soup. I didn't even notice their absence until hours later, but if you want noodles, then go for it. The point is--don't be afraid--just give it a go. It's a beautifully balanced soup that is wonderfully satisfying.

Sweet and Sour Soup
adapted from Morsels of Life
Serves 4-6
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 20-30 minutes
Cost: $6.00 (to reduce the cost, add fewer shrimp or a less expensive white fish)
onion: .15, pepper: .50, chilies: .10, carrot: .10, mushrooms: .30, ginger: .05, garlic: .05, chicken stock: .40, lemon grass: .40, shrimp: 2.50, tomatoes: .20, coconut milk: .75, rice noodles: .50, other ingredients: .20

1 Tbsp oil
1/2 C onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 tsp finely diced chilies (I used jalepenos without seeds to add a little something without too much kick; you could also use a chili pepper sauce but then wait and add it with coconut milk)
1 carrot, sliced
1/2 C mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
3 C chicken or veggie stock
1 1/2 stalks lemon grass (or a few scrapes of lemon rind)
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 lb shrimp (white fish would probably also work)
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1/2 C tomatoes, diced
1 C coconut milk
1 Tbsp cilantro (I used for garnish, but could be added to soup)
2 Tbsp brown or white sugar
a handful rice noodles

Heat oil in a pot. Add onion, pepper, chilies, carrots, and mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and ginger and cook for a minute or two more. Add remaining ingredients except rice noodles. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. (If you used lemon stalk, take it out here.) If using rice noodles, add them and cook for just a few minutes. Garnish with cilantro if desired.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

6-Week Muffins

(These mini-muffins were made from batter approximately 5 weeks old.)

Game changer: A batter for muffins that will last 6 weeks in your refrigerator. 

You know what that means, right? It means that you can make a huge amount of batter and then every morning, drag your sorry, lazy behind out of bed and, while still half asleep, pour batter into muffin tins and then 20 minutes later when you've finally realized you're awake because possibly you've taken a shower, but more likely because your kids keep talking with the dulcet tones of children respectful of the morning pauses and silences--by which I mean yelling every word they say as though you were on a different continent. When this happens, all of the sudden (with no significant effort on your part) hot, sweet breakfast will come forth out of the oven like a miracle of goodness. 

That is what I'm talking about. 

I originally heard about these at a church event. We were given a recipe and I almost fell out of my chair and then one of my friends leaned over and said, "You can do that with my muffin recipe too." I love her muffins and they are already on this blog. So I thought I'd start with those babies. And sure enough, it worked. We probably could have gone through our batter in much less than 6 weeks, but I intentionally kept it in the fridge to make sure nothing nasty was going to grow on it. Nothing did. And we ate these muffins and they were delicious. 

I was sure the leavening would just poof out and not work after the first day, and I will say, they didn't have quite as much rise by week six as they did for the first batch, but they were still very respectably muffin-like and not leaden bricks of dough. 

Here's the recipe. (Note: This original recipe can make muffins or pancakes, but the pancakes do NOT work for 6 weeks--they just wind up really really flat if you try.) It makes quite a lot by itself, but if you double it, you'll have a super lot. Use what you want, tightly COVER the rest, and make muffins whenever you like. 


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Creamy Dijon Chicken

Recently at a party, a friend commented that she had been checking my blog and that I hadn't had many recipes up lately. It was a fair critique. I have been uber busy the last two weeks and have spent this week whipping up such fabulous dinners as: Eggs.

But. That doesn't mean that I don't have a few recipes I've been meaning to post for ages and just haven't gotten to (see the busyness excuse; also the laziness one--oh, whoops, forgot to mention that one). So, my friend, here you go and enjoy. This is a simple, but very satisfying creamy chicken that'll get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. For the low-fat option--oh wait, never mind. (And truly I should have added some parsley to the top of this for color, don't you think.)

Creamy Dijon Chicken
adapted from The Hobo Kitchen
Serves 4
Prep and cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $6.80 ($1.70/serving)
chicken: 5.00, cream: 1.50, mustards: .20, lemon juice: .05, other stuff: .05

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 C cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard (or whatever else kind of mustard you like)
1 tsp whole grain mustard (I think I subbed in cheap mustard here)
dash onion powder
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
dash chili flakes or a spring of parsley if you don't want your meal pale like mine is

Heat oil in a skillet. Add chicken breast and cook, browning on either side and cooking until center is no longer pink.

Remove chicken from pan. Cook garlic for a quick minute. (If you feel so inspired, you may also cook up some leeks or shallots). Add cream, mustard, and a dash of onion powder (if you didn't add leeks or shallots). Whisk and allow to simmer for 5-8 minutes until it has reduced just a bit.

While this happens, shred or cube your chicken.

Add lemon juice. Add shredded chicken back. Add salt, pepper, and possibly chili flakes to taste.

Simmer for several minutes.

Serve over rice. Or spoon from pan to mouth. Whatever floats your boat. Maybe garnish with parsley or at least serve a colorful vegetable.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Herb Drying for Dummies

Although my normal garden is nothing to brag about, I do have a fairly lovely herb garden. Which is just great. Until it's the end of October and my basil is falling over itself and everything needs to have something done with it if I want to preserve some for myself over the winter. Which I do. But then the idea of cutting off leaves and hanging it or putting it in the dehydrator for days or making a pesto with it or slow oven-drying it, or any of the other methods for herb preservation that I've ever tried made me want to put my head under the covers and hibernate. Often I do have the time and energy for these things and I enjoy them, but this fall, it just made me heave a fat, dramatic sigh. Still, the cheapskate in me just couldn't let them all freeze and go to waste.

(Note: The following is an unnecessarily long story of how I accidentally learned this herb-drying-for-dummies trick. Interestingly many of my for-dummies tricks are discovered quite by accident while I, myself, am acting (for research purposes of course) like a dummy. Anyway... continue on with the story if you will or hop to the instructions below for the method...)

Finally, I went out and chopped down the basil. I figured I'd let it sit on the table and maybe it would, uh, dry itself or something. It didn't. A few leaves started getting funky and I figured, "Okay, I'm not going to let it just sit here and mold." So I took off all the good leaves and figured I'd just dry them in the oven. I had way too much basil to throw in the dehydrator and oven-drying seemed a little easier than making pesto, (and it didn't involve any expensive ingredients that I may or may not have had).

Generally, to oven dry, I do this: 1) Turn the oven to lowest setting. For me this is 175, which is a little too high for herbs, so I let it get almost there and then I turn the oven off and let it sit, and then when the oven has cooled a few hours later, I turn the oven back and then repeat that process. For a small amount of herb, it's not a big deal. But for a large amount, it takes forever. And you have to keep "tossing" your basil so some doesn't dry while the other stuff accidentally steams/cooks/gets weird. And then if you really have a lot of herb, you need to take the stuff that has dried out and let the other stuff keep going. Blah blah blah.

And I seriously had a lot of basil. It would have taken days and been super annoying and commandeered my oven. And I was sure I'd forget it was in there and pre-heat the oven for something and ruin the basil.

So I turned on the oven and let it heat. Then turned it off and let my basil sit in the warm oven. Then it was bedtime. And my basil sure wasn't all dry. So I gave my basil a toss and then turned on the oven light to remind me the basil was there so I wouldn't accidentally cook it all while preheating the oven for something non-herb-related the next day.

And guess what? The next morning, my basil was perfectly wonderfully, effortlessly dry. Crumbly, fresh-scented, awesome. When I took the pans out, they were warm to the touch. The light I'd left on had kept the oven just warm enough to be the perfect temperature. And leaving it overnight was the right amount of time (though I'm sure they could have been left for longer).

Herb Drying for Dummies

1) Take the leaves off the stems and spread leaves out on large cookie sheets. It's ideal if the leaves don't overlap, but I certainly broke that rule and had overlapping leaves and leaf clusters just everywhere.

2) Heat your oven to its lowest setting. As soon as it gets there or close, turn the oven off.

3) Turn the oven light on.

4) Let sit overnight. Note: If you have a ton of herbs (especially if they're overlapping), give them a little toss before you go to bed to get the bottom ones on top and visa versa).

5) In the morning, they should be crumbly and perfect. If not, leave them a few hours longer with that oven light on.


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