Money Saving Monday: Coupons

Coupons can really really save you money. But sometimes they don't. I used to try to manage all of my coupons myself and go to the store with a stack of coupons and dig through them and try to find what I needed. Only in the end I usually found that even with a coupon it was cheaper to just buy the store brand...so that's what I usually did. Which in my opinion, is fine. Go for it, buy the store brand.

However, I've found now that by using an online coupon manager you can really save quite a bit more AND buy the store brands. I use The Grocery Game, but I've also heard that Coupon Sense is great too. What I've learned to like about The Grocery Game is that you really only need to go to one store. And if you go to the same store regularly you will always end up getting what you need on sale and with your coupon....so essentially for a fraction of the regular price.

Lots of people say, "Yah but we don't eat lots of processed foods like hamburger helper and velveeta cheese." Well, if you read my recipes at all you'll see that we usually don't either. BUT, I save a lot of money on toiletries, paper produces, cleaning/laundry supplies, dry and canned goods, snacks...the list goes on.

Just to give you an idea, I usually spend about $60 per week on groceries for a family of four and that usually includes a bottle of wine and occasionally a package of diapers. So, give coupons a shot. You really will save!

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Corn Casserole

Again, no picture. The pan for this stuff was licked clean after the potluck. BUT JUST TRUST ME this is so yummy. My mom has been making this every Thanksgiving and Christmas since I can remember. Whenever I take this anywhere it's a hit and everyone wants the recipe. The best part is it is really simple. Not so great for the waistline, but really easy and fast to put together. The word casserole is a bit of a turnoff for me, so I thought of calling it "Corn Pudding" or "Corn Cake", but I started to think of pudding which automatically takes me to chocolate pudding with lots of whipped cream and then you add corn to that picture, and I threw up in my mouth a little bit so I decided to stay with casserole!
Corn Casserole

2 cans whole kernel corn, drained well
2 cans creamed corn
2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups sour cream
2 eggs, beaten
2 packages Jiffy corn muffin mix
salt & pepper

Mix everything together. Pour into a greased 9x13'' pan. Bake at 350 an hour or until the middle isn't jiggly anymore.

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Mashed Potatoes

I made these mashed potatoes last night for our community group Thanksgiving potluck and there were none left! Pretty much the only "secret ingredient" is cream cheese. If you just toss some cream cheese into whatever you usually do with your mashed potatoes, you'll see a big difference. Super creamyness. Super yummy. Great with gravy, or by themselves. In fact, if you're not doing gravy drizzle in some truffle oil for super deliciousness.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

5 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 stick butter, melted
1/2-3/4 block cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup milk (or more for desired consistency)
1/2 cup sour cream
salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Boil the potatoes in a stock pot until fork tender.  Drain and return potatoes to the pot and put the pot on the warm burner to help heat out any water in the potatoes.  Mash potatoes using a potato masher or hand mixer and add in butter, cream cheese, milk and sour cream. Season well. Enjoy!

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Creamy Jalapeno Dip

This stuff is good. Spicy, but good. The possibilities are endless with this stuff. Mix it in with some beans and make a bean dip. Put it on a burrito. Use it as a dip alongside chips. Dunk your taquitos in it. Baby carrots. Pretty much anything. Rob insists that I have this in the fridge at all times.

I usually use fat-free cream cheese and low-fat sour cream to even it out a bit.

Jalapeno Dip

2 cups sour cream (or a whole 16oz container)
1 block cream cheese, softened
1 small can green chiles, drained
1 small can jalapenos with carrots, drained well (in the Mexican food aisle)
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp. taco seasoning (if you're gluten-free check for that)

Toss the jalapenos & garlic in the food processer and pulse until mostly chopped. Add everything else into the food processer (or if you have a super-power blender). Blend until everything is incorporated.

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Money Saving Monday: Christmas Cards

My friend just emailed me a link to this blog where this wonderful woman has shared a way to get 100 free photo Christmas cards (plus shipping)! So I checked into it and even ended up creating my cards and ordering the free 100, plus they have another saving code at checkout for 50% off of your order, so I ordered an extra 35 cards for a big discount! It's not quite the same as the homemade cards I usually make, but the savings was worth it!

Check out the Kingdom First Mom's blog for all of the details! You have until Nov. 30th.

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Money Saving Monday: Menu Planning

If anyone is following these Monday posts....you're probably paying a little closer attention now that Christmas is JUST AROUND THE CORNER! AHHH! And, I''m pretty sure I'm not the only person trying to cut every corner to try to make Christmas happen. In fact, I may have to stop making friends so that my Christmas card list gets a bit shorter. Stamps are ridiculously expensive these days!!!

Anyway, if you're looking to save money on groceries menu planning will definitely do it! I have posted a picture of this cheesy little notepad I got at Michael's in the dollar bin that saves me! If you go to the grocery store more than once a week: Stop. Seriously. Everytime you walk into that grocery store you're bound to see something that seems like a great deal that you didn't realize you really needed until you walked past it. Then the next thing you know you're spending $35 every time you step foot in there and that adds up!

I typically spend $40-$70 at the grocery store which includes diapers and formula/milk for the baby. And we don't typically eat a bunch of crap or top ramen for dinner. BUT if you don't plan it won't just magically happen. Another reason menu planning is great is because you will have all of the ingredients you need to make your dinner!

Here's how I do it: I take stock of everything I have in my pantry/freezer AND what's on sale at my store that week. If chicken breasts aren't on sale that week...we aren't going to eat them. If pork loin is on sale for a great price, I'm going to figure out how to use it in my meal plan.

As you can see on my little weekly menu in the picture we were having chicken pot pie and bbq chicken pizza. I had gotten a whole chicken for $.47/lb and it was in my freezer. So I knew that I could cook that chicken and get enough for the pot pie and the pizza and probably have a little leftover for a salad for lunch or something. So, I plan my meals based on what's on sale and what I have, then I make sure to add all the ingredients I don't have for the planned meals to my grocery list to keep me out of Fry's Marketplace and away from their Starbucks the rest of the week.

I'm not rigid, if I don't feel like burritos on Monday, we have them another night and I shuffle around the menu. But, it does really help to have the plan made to help me do my shopping more effectively and efficiently.

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Penne with Creamy Marinara & Sundried Tomatoes

I'm not sure what to call this besides..."Vodka Penne that didn't happen" and that seems long and not a very good discription of what it is so....Penne with Creamy Marinara & Sundried Tomatoes it is!

I had some whipping cream leftover from the whipped cream cheese frosting I made for Elise's birthday cupcakes (recipe coming...someday) so naturally I had to use it up or else my frugality would suffer. So I thought I'd make Vodka sauce which is sooo delicious. But, then it was dinner time and I had no vodka and neither did my neighbor so I quickly thawed out some chicken sausage and made this up. It turned out good. Everyone in my family scarfed it down like homeless people so that's always a good sign. Elise had seconds which doesn't happen very often. It was also 6:30 at night which is waaay past her dinner time so she was probably starving, but she liked it regardless. I actually took some notes this time of what I did to make this so that I think my recipe is spot on. Try it, it's good.

Penne with Creamy Marinara and Sundried Tomatoes

1 lb penne (or really any short cut pasta)
1 lb sausage (any kind including Jimmy Dean works, I used Italian chicken sausage because of aforementioned waistline problems)
1/4 onion, finely minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. olive oil
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce or tomato puree
salt, pepper
3 T italian seasoning
1/2 T garlic powder
1/2 tsp crushed chilis
2 tsp sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 small jar artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 8-oz pkg sliced mushrooms
3 T juliennned sundried tomatoes
1/4 cup frozen peas

Brown sausage, drain set aside. In the same skillet heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic and mushrooms until tender. Add tomato sauce and seasoning, crushed chili's, garlic powder and sugar. Put the cooked sausage back in there too. Simmer all that together for 20 minutes. Boil the pasta as directed, drain. When you're almost ready to eat add the cream, sundried tomatoes, peas, and artichoke hearts. Heat through. Taste for extra seasoning. Wah-lah.

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My father in-law makes the best guacamole. Please don't even try to dispute that because he just does. I'm sure your mom's guacamole is good too....but it can't be as good as his. I'm pretty sure he could start selling it at a stand in front of his house and make a zillion dollars because really once people taste it....they'd come back....a lot.
He showed me how to make "his" guacamole but it never ever turns out as good as the original. But, it's pretty good so I decided to show you. This picture isn't very good but it looked nice and green in real life. I'd like to add that I'm pretty sure it's an unforgivable food sin to put cottage cheese into your guac. Please please please never do that. It's just not right.
I never measure anything, so here's the rough measurements for tasty, but not perfect guacamole. (As mentioned before my father in-law makes perfect guacamole and I am not him...so that's that.)

4 ripe avocados seeded
1 1/2 T finely diced red onion
1 1/2 T finely diced roma tomato
1/4 c. pace picante sauce, strained
1 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper
1 or 2 T sour cream (depending on how creamy you like it.)
a few shakes of Tabasco
juice of half a lime

Put all the ingredients except lime juice in a bowl. Mash and mix with a fork. Taste. Adjust seasonings to your liking. Squeeze the lime juice over the top of the completed guacamole. This will keep the green color from turning brown. Definitely serve this along side salsa and chips.

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Candy Buffet

It seems l have a habit of turning "little" gatherings turn into big parties. I don't really know what happens but it just does. So Elise's teeny tiny little family birthday party was no exception to that happening. So since I was at it, I decide to do a candy buffet instead of favors. I mean, why not? She'll obviously be super appreciative and remember it forever.
The buffet turned out really cute and I thought maybe someone else could benefit from the pictures. I wanted pink and white because I'm desperately trying to stay away from Dora or Princesses or Barbie or really any other completely overdone and addictive theme because I figured we've got lots of years for that! If you wanted to do a candy buffet you can obviously do any color, theme, whatever. I even threw a little vase of balloons in there and the kids loved that. Then, with the parents help the kids (and adults!) each made a little celophane bag to take home. It went over really well.
I used all clear-glass containers. Some were cute little jars, vases, bowls, whatever you can find. I borrowed some from a friend found a couple at a yard sale, removed some dried flowers from another....whatever. Varying sizes looks cute and it seems to look better when the jars are almost full so plan that when buying your candy!

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Chicken with Shallots & Balsamic Sauce

I found this recipe somewhere....I really don't know where. I remember making it about a year or so ago when I was still pregnant with Elise and now she's a year old, so...who knows! I'm assuming it was off of a blog or something because it definitely wasn't Allrecipes.com. Anyway, it was really good and I stumbled upon the recipe in my enormous pile of print-outs while looking for mac-n-cheese recipe for Elise's birthday party. I made the chicken last night. It's really really good and I think the sauce would be great on pork chops or even a steak too. I didn't have any shallots so I used 3/4 of a red onion sliced and it worked out great. Try this! Take your usual grilled chicken to the next level without having to buy a zillion strange and expensive ingredients.

To make the chicken I heated 2 tsp. canola oil and some cooking spray in a frying pan. I cooked each side over med-high heat for 3 minutes, lowered the heat to med-low and covered it and cooked for an additional 5 minutes.

Chicken with Shallots & Balsamic Glaze

1 lb chicken breasts, grilled baked or saute'd (seasoned with salt & pepper)


5 shallots (or about 1 cup sliced red onion)

1 T olive oil

salt & pepper

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 generous T. apricot jam

Heat the olive oil over med-high heat add shallots/onions, salt and pepper. Saute' the onions until they are getting soft. Reduce heat to medium add the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil for a minute. Reduce heat again add the chicken broth and jam cooking for another few minutes. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Ta Da! That's it.

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My husband travels quite a bit for work and he goes to Michigan often to visit our friends/business partner and do sales there. They got him hooked on this Sangria you can buy at the grocery store in the wine aisle. He loves it. I'm not the biggest fan because I dont typically like sweet drinks but he and my sister can down a bottle in a night. (Don't worry there's only 4 glasses in a bottle so there's no drinking problems involved.) Anyway, it's $6.99 a bottle. And of course being the ever frugal-foodie I thought to myself...."hmmm I bet I can make this for half the price." So, I did. And they liked the results.

Sangria is just wine mixed with other liquor, juices and/or fruit so I parused a few recipes online and made up my own. It makes more than double the amont of Sangria that you get in the bottle and thanks to Trader Joe's and Charles Shaw I got the wines for $2.99 each so that's a pretty great deal on a whole pitcher of Sangria. I'll definitely be making this for our next party or get-together. I used Chardonnay and Cabernet because that's the type of wine we usually drink, but if you like it sweeter or drier you can go with any type or red and white wine.


1 750 ml bottle white wine
1 750 ml bottle red wine
1/2 cup simple syrup (recipe below)
1 cup orange juice
1 orange sliced
1 lemon sliced
1 apple peeled and chopped

Prepare and cool the simple syrup. Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

For the simple syrup mix 1 c. water and 1 c. sugar in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil stirring constantly until the sugar is all disolved and its...syrup-y. You only need half of this recipe for the sangria. Unless you like it really sweet, then go for it!

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Macaroni and Cheese

This stuff is seriously delicious. I know I probably say that about everything, but seriously. It's really really good. Not too bad on the budget...but definitely not great on the diet side. But a little bit never hurt right? Thirds may not be a good idea though. But I'll leave that up to you. Make this. Make this immediately. I made this quadrupled for Elise's "small" birthday party last weekend and it was a hit.

Also, I drizzled in some truffle oil...and I don't think words can even express how amazing the truffle oil is in the mac-n-cheese....just try it. Find some truffle oil and drizzle it in, it's soooo good.

Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb. macaroni or shells cooked and drained

2 cups milk

8-12 oz velveeta, cubed

1 cup cheddar cheese (I used sharp)

1/2 cup mozzarella

1/2 cup monterey jack or colby jack

salt & pepper

truffle oil (I guess that parts optional....but why?)

1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 T. parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 T. butter

Preheat oven to 350. Put the cooked noodles in a 9x13'' pan. Heat the milk on medium heat and melt in the velveeta. Stir constantly and don't try to do it too fast or the milk will scald and ruin the perfectness. Pour the velveeta/milk mixture over the noodles and stir in the other shredded cheeses. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the drizzle of truffle oil. Melt the butter and stir the butter, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese together and sprinkle over the macaroni. Bake for 20 minutes.

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Money Saving Monday: Cash

Again with the saving money. It's always at the top of my mind, I try to make a game out of it. Today I'm going to emphasize using cash. Before we had kids and I was working we had "budget" but it was more of an option than a goal. I would use my debit card for everything trying to keep a tally in my head on how much I had spent and I would usually feel like I hadn't spent that much until Rob added it all up and then I was appalled at how fast the frequent grocery trips and coffee stops had added up.

During the budget crisis of '06 I quit working and we had our first child so we had to face our spending demons. (Ok, I had to face my spending demons. Rob doesn't spend.) Anyway, we set a weekly budget of $100.00. That included groceries, formula & diapers, gifts, and eating out. Yah, kind-of pathetic. Actually I think it's pretty much the poor house. I cried. I cried a lot. No more leisurely and pointless Target visits. No more 4-times-a-week latte habit. At the beginning of each week I would take out $100 cash. I had to start weighing every single purchase. Do I buy the name-brand trash bags, or the Kroger brand? Do we really need Diet Coke? Should we really be buying every single person in our humongous family a birthday present?

I had to make some hard decisions. And get really creative. And cook at home more. And find free entertainment. And... It has so helped me to be on a cash budget because I very rarely go over the budget. It's really easy to "plan" on how much we'll spend and save money on those accidental overdraft fees. And mostly to avoid unnecessary expenses like things you toss in your cart on a whim and then never eat or bring a drink from home instead of stopping at Sonic for a soda. Every dollar counts. If I spend only $50 at the grocery store on Monday, that means I have money left to take Robbie to McDonalds, get a latte, and a small Target trip during the week. Manipulating your cash can be fun! For me it helps to physically see the amount of cash left in my wallet.

Your budget will obviously be different than mine. You may have more budget categories and put cash into envelopes. The whole point is just to use cash for things that you go to the store to buy (not bills) to avoid overspending and keep track of what you spend.

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Greek Salsa

This is sooo delicious that it all disappeared before I could get a picture. I made this yesterday for Elise's birthday party and all the adults loved it. We had something like this at a party once and Rob insisted that I figure out how to make it, so this is what I came up with. It's really good with tortilla chips or pita chips! And somewhat healthy.

Greek Salsa

6-7 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 red onion diced finely
2 cucumbers, peeled and diced
1 c. crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 T vinegar (I used red wine but anything will work)
1 T olive oil

Mix everything together and let sit in the refrigerator at least an hour before serving. But, don't make it too far ahead either, it gets runny and ugly!

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Baked Ziti

We love pasta. Rob has never been an ounce overweight in his life (try not to hold it against him.) and he would prefer to have pasta twice a week and an entire loaf of cheesy garlic bread with every single meal. (Really. I'm not over dramatizing that.) Naturally I have struggled with my chubby middle since third grade so we usually have pasta once every two weeks and I keep bread in the freezer so I can pop in half a loaf for him a few times a week while I "pass" on the bread.

Anyway, this pasta I made for our neighbors. Poor Patty was having a rough week with three of her four kids home sick from school so I wanted to help her out and I sent this over to them. (Rob doesn't know that I made this cheesy creation and then passed it off!)

I rarely follow a recipe so I tried to write everything down as I did it, but if you need more seasoning, etc. ...adjust!

Baked Ziti

1 lb ziti or penne

1 lb Italian sausage (turkey or chicken sausage works great and your skinny husband won't be able to tell)

1/2 onion chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

5 garlic cloves, diced or pressed

2 tb tomato paste

1 can diced tomatoes with the juice (14-16 oz)

1 can tomato sauce (14-16 oz)

1 1/2 Tb Italian seasoning

2 tsp basil

2 tsp granulated garlic

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp crushed red peppers

2 cups mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

While you're preparing the sauce, boil the pasta as directed. Drain, set aside. In a large skillet brown the sausage with the onions and peppers. Drain fat add in garlic and cook a minute. Add tomato paste and cook for two minutes until it starts to brown. Add in all other ingredients EXCEPT cheeses. Simmer for 20 minutes, checking for seasoning. In a 9x13'' pan mix the pasta with the sauce, cover with cheeses and bake for 25 minutes at 350.

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Money Saving Monday: Toys

Well, I thought since I am "cracked-up" and all, that I should maybe start sharing with you some of my money saving tips. I have become quite the pro at making the budget stretch. Since Christmas is coming up and I LOVE to shop for gifts I decided today I would share with you some tips for money-saving Christmas shopping. Although my husband likes to remind me that, "we can't afford to save too much money!" Because that's usually how I justify purchases...."yah, but I saved so much!"

Unfortunately in my family shopping is viewed as almost a pasttime or hobby. Nothing gets my blood going like a good sale. I am one of those people that get up before the crack of dawn on Black Friday to rush out to the crowds and save $34.00 on toys and clothes. It's fun for me. A rush. Last year Elise was 5 days old and I still went and brought her along.

So, for today's Money Saving budget tip: toys. I keep a closet full of toys for gifts for my neices and nephews and my friends' kids. That way I always have something on hand that I bought for a great deal and I don't have to go out and spend money that I'd rather buy a latte with on a more expensive gift.

There are a couple good places to look for clearance toys. At Target they almost always put the clearance toys on an endcap at the very end of the toy department on the edge of the sporting goods. You can find $30 toys for $5 or even less. Last year I found a Fisher Price Little People market for $4.96! Stuffed it in the closet and had it ready for Christmas. I make it a habit to walk down the endcaps looking for great bargains every time I'm there. It really does pay off. Also, on an endcap by the cards and party supplies I will find great art supplies on clearance for gifts too. One tip though, don't buy something totally stupid that you'll be embarrassed to give someone just because it's a good deal. Speaking from experience here.

Another great place to find good deals on toys is Kohl's. They seem to kind of hide the great toy deals in the very back of the toy department on a low shelf. But, if you can find them they're golden! Saturday I found a High School Musical game on clearance for $5.99 and it was an extra 25 percent off!! WOW, I'm pretty sure my niece will love it and it was well within my budget.

Ross has great toys that are quite a bit cheaper than they would be at a department store or even Target regular price. You have to be willing to dig, but you can find cool stuff.

Also, Dollar Tree will occasionally have great stuff that is name-brand and not just junk. And, for a dollar so you can't beat it. Unfortunately every time I walk into that store I end up with a cart full of stuff I never knew I always needed. Then as soon as I get home I realize I didn't really need it. SO--keep on task! Don't buy junk!

This year we are experimenting with a much smaller Christmas budget than usual so I'll be eyeing endcaps and clearance bins to make it through the season with nice gifts that fit into my budget. I refuse to give junk as gifts, and you really don't have to!

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Grilled Shrimp

We love shrimp. If you don't think you like shrimp, you may change your mind when you make this! SO simple, easy and very few ingredients. Always use raw shrimp for this!

We first had shrimp grilled like this up at Lake Powell with some business friends. Our friend John cooked for us one night and made this and it was love! So thank you John, for introducing us to this amazing recipe. I usually try to spend $2 or less per pound for meat but I do make an exception for the occasional shrimp or fish.

This time we had this wonderful Alaskan shrimp that Rob's mom brought for us. It's so amazing it tastes like mini lobsters. So Rob grilled us up some shrimp! Yummy.

If you don't live in Southern Arizona you may be past the grilling-out season, but we pretty much live in hell so we grill. A lot. So either saute this on the stove or save it for summer.

John Cox's Grilled Shrimp
1 lb raw shrimp, de-veined and peeled

3 garlic cloves minced, divided

juice of 1 lemon, divided

1 Tb olive oil, divided

salt & pepper

Just before grilling toss half of the chopped garlic, olive oil and lemon juice with the shrimp. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill until just pink...being careful not to overcook. Once cooked add the other half of all the ingredients and a bit more salt & pepper. Enjoy!

We usually have this with veggies and pasta with homemade pesto sauce.

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Pioneer Woman and YC's Guy

The Pioneer Woman's cookbook came out and she was speaking and doing a booksigning at a store in Tempe last night. So, I talked my sister into going out there with me with bribes of going to a yummy stir fry restaurant.

The pictures are of this hilarious guy in line with us making his stir-fry bowl....he was DEFinitely getting his $10 worth out of the buffet! I'm pretty sure he packed in at least a full pound of Alaskan cod before he even started adding veggies. I asked him if I could take his pic, he said sure. Just so you know I did NOT eat that much! But if you're going to be out in the east valley you should definitely try out YC's--you get to make your own bowl of stir fry, add a sauce, and then watch the guys fry it up for you. It's really healthy and a great price.

Anyway, off to the book signing we went. I LOVE Pioneer Woman. She is my favorite food blogger, or really my favorite blogger in general. She's funny, entertaining and her food is SO good. I don't go to concerts or follow stars....so for me to drive an hour to see Pioneer Woman I felt a little stalker-ish. It was fun to see her in person....then came the line. The. Line. They gave out letters to let you know which group you could line up in. I got "M". When I finally gave up and left at 9:15 pm....they were on "B". So, hats off to you Pioneer Woman, you have quite the following. I'm just not as loyal as some. My friend stayed the whole time and she didn't get home until 1:30!!! That's devotion! My devotion is conditional and seems to end at 10 pm!

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Makeovers Rock

THANK YOU, THANK YOU to Lisa at the Blog Spa. She did such an awesome job on my blog makeover. I'm so excited, I look like a legitimate blogger now!

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Val's Chicken Pot Pie

I'm all about using a rotisserie chicken which saves time and money. BUT buying a whole chicken, cooking it and making several recipes with the chicken saves a lot more money. And I seem to have a little more time than money so that's what I did!

The other day I got a huge chicken at Fry's for $.50/lb. I cooked it up making a batch of homemade chicken stock, a pot of chicken soup that was enough to send dinner over to the neighbor, chicken tacos, and a chicken pot pie. I definitely got my $3 out of that chicken!

For the chicken pot pie I used boxed stuffing but you could very easily make your own stuffing. However, I find that the boxed stuffing is super cheap and saves time. You could definitely use canned chicken or cook a chicken breast or two to get the chicken for this recipe. (Homemade stuffing recipe coming towards the end of the month.)

This recipe makes an 8'' square pan, but if you want a bigger batch just double.

Val's Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Filling:

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/4 onion, chopped
3 large carrots, diced

2-3 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed

3/4 cup frozen peas

2 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cubed or shredded

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 c. sour cream

salt, pepper to taste

Stuffing Topping:

3/4 onion, chopped (the rest of the onion that you used for the chicken filling)

2 celery stalks, diced

1 apple, peeled and diced

4 Tb. butter or spread

2 boxes chicken or turkey stuffing

water called for in stuffing directions

1/2 cup apple juice


Preheat oven to 350. In a large skillet saute carrots, celery, onions in cooking spray until they start to soften. Add in garlic & peas and cook another 2 minutes. Dump in chicken, soup and sour cream and season with salt and pepper. Put all the chicken mixture into an 8x8 inch casserole dish. Wipe out the skillet and melt the butter in the same skillet. Saute the apples, onions, and celery until soft. Add in the stuffing and the water & apple juice. Season with salt & pepper. Top the chicken filling with the stuffing and bake for 30 minutes.

Oreo Truffles

Oreo Truffles, you had me at hello. I know food doesn't equal love....but this may be as close as it gets.

A friend of mine made these and brought them to a party the other night and I had never tasted anything so amazing. Then I found out they were very simple to make. Once Rob heard about these candies he couldn't take waiting for Thanksgiving or Christmas cookie-making. So being the ever faithful and doting wife that I am I went to the store and got the ingredients. Just for him of course.

Oreo Truffles
1 package Oreo cookies

1 block cream cheese, softened

1 pkg almond bark (found only at Wal-Mart around here)

Crumble up the Oreos with a food chopper or your hands very finely and put them into a large mixing bowl. Drop in the cream cheese and mix with your hands until it is a sticky dough ball. Roll the Oreo mixture into small balls. Melt the almond bark in the microwave as directed. Do not over heat the chocolate or it will lump up. Roll the truffles in chocolate and let cool on wax paper or parchment paper. Let cool and harden.

Either white chocolate or dark chocolate is super yummy with these truffles.

*Note: if you can't find the almond bark you can use 2 packages of chocolate chips and melt them in the microwave. DONT over cook the chocolate or it will lump up. Also, add a little bit of vegetable oil to thin out the chocolate a bit. Then refrigerate to help the chocolate harden.

All-American Chili

Chili is such a great fall and winter comfort food. You just can't go wrong with it! I don't use a recipe for chili, so this time I made it I tried to measure things to see what I did. But really any kind of beans will work, as much or little chili powder or crushed red peppers as you like works too.

You can add corn, diced carrots, celery, any kind of bell pepper to bump up the veggies and definitely substitute beef broth or a bottle of beer for the red wine. OR just leave it out completely. And you can easily make this chili vegetarian by using the soy "beef" crumbles from the freezer aisle, I recently did that to make some for a family in our small group that are vegetarian and we really liked it. (Although I didn't disclose the soy part to my family until after they ate it!)

I made the equivalent of 5 batches of this chili for Halloween yesterday and we have lots leftover but it was a HIT with the neighborhood and we passed out lots of leftovers to the neighbors at the end of the night. AND I used all lean ground turkey and no one noticed!! Ha Ha guys, I tricked you!

*Note, I used the pinto beans I had cooked up earlier in the week, but good ole canned beans are just great too.

All-American Chili

1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed
2-3 Tb. tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 Tb. brown sugar OR bbq sauce
1 24 oz can diced tomatoes with the juice
1 28 oz can tomato sauce
3 cans pinto beans, drained (or kidney beans, black beans or any combo of beans)
1-2 cups water
2 Tb chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
salt & pepper to taste

In a soup pot or dutch oven brown the ground beef/turkey with the onions and green pepper. Drain off fat and add in garlic and saute until fragrant. Add in tomato paste and cook until it starts to turn brown. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil and cook a few minutes. Add all other ingredients and cook on medium-low for an hour or longer OR in a crockpot on low for 4 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning as you like. More sugar for a sweeter flavor, more chili powder for spicier. (Cayenne pepper will boost the spice too.)