Wednesday, April 24, 2013

corn cakes

Soup and bread is the perfect combo...unless the soup is spicy.  When you add spice to the mix, you've gotta have corn to sweeten things up a bit!

These corn cakes are easy and delicious - the perfect accompaniment to your favorite spicy soup.  I like them with tortilla soup, but this week we had them with a black bean soup.  They contain green onions and cayenne, adding their own level of spice to the meal.  But the natural sweetness of corn rounds everything out.  They are a must for your next night of Mexican food.

Begin by combining an egg, buttermilk, and melted butter.

In a separate bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and cayenne pepper.

Combine the dry and wet ingredients and then fold in the corn and green pepper.  Heat a cast iron skillet and coat it with light layer of oil.  Fry up the corn cakes like you would pancakes!

Serve with sour cream, a little salsa, and some delicious soup - makes a terrific meal!

Corn Cakes
Adapted from Gooseberry Patch's Celebrate Year Round
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 T. butter, melted
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen corn

In a small bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and cayenne pepper.  In a separate bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk and butter.  Add egg mixture to cornmeal mixture and stir lightly.  Fold in green onions and corn.  In a heated cast iron skillet coated with oil, place heaping tablespoons of batter; brown and flip as you would pancakes.  Top with sour cream and salsa.  Serves 4.

Monday, April 22, 2013

"his" and "hers" strawberry sauces

Cookie Bandit and I had a fun, impromptu date night the other day.  We had some strawberries...we had some pork we decided to play a little game of Iron Chef and make our own strawberry sauces to spruce up our dinner.

I combined sweet, sassy, and savory to get a strawberry lime sauce.  It goes amazing on both pork and chicken.  Cookie Bandit went a bit more bold and created a hot and savory strawberry sauce.  At first you taste the strawberries, but it leaves some spice and heat lingering on your taste buds.  I couldn't get enough of the stuff!

Be sure to try one next time you need to spruce up grilled chicken or pork chops.  Or better yet, grab some fruit and try making your own!

"His" Hot and Savory Strawberry Sauce
  • 6 strawberries
  • 3 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1/4 t. garlic powder
  • 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 t. prepared horseradish

"Hers" Strawberry-Lime Sauce
  • 6 strawberries
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 t. lime juice
  • 1/4 t. basil
  • 1/4 t. ground mustard
  • 1/4 t. savory
Puree all ingredients and spoon over meat.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

game-day fan fare - review and giveaway!

Game-Day Fan Fare: Over 240 recipes, plus tips and inspiration to make sure your game-day celebration is a home run!
It's that time of year again!  Gooseberry Patch has a brand new cookbook out, and my goodness is it amazing.  Game-Day Fan Fare is full of those perfect recipes for a night at home watching the football game on TV or for the best party you'll ever throw.  I just love it for its versatility in that sense.  It's got recipes for brunch, munchies, soups, salads, sandwiches, main dishes, sides, dessert treats, and for those times when you are feeding the whole football team!  
Like I do with most cookbooks, I immediately read it straight through to see what caught my eye.  For the first time, there was so much that I had to make a list!  Our breakfasts in the near future are going to definitely include the Blueberry Coffee Cake, Pumpkin Waffles, and Beer Bread Pancakes.  The Touchdown Toss looks amazing - a white chocolate covered snack mix that sounds perfect for movie night!  I can't wait to try making my own Pimento Cheese to go alongside Beer-Cheese Soup, some All-Season Coleslaw, and Creamy Bacon Corn-Fetti.  Next time I have a crowd coming over, I'll be whipping up some Chicken Strata and Mini Cheesecakes.  And I can't wait to try the Caramel Corn, Ooey-Gooey Popcorn, Banana Pudding Fudge, Coconutty Macaroons, and Skillet Cookies.  Phew!  I think I'm going to need to up my exercise with all of these recipes on my menu!

We did finally narrow down which recipes we wanted to try for this review.  We loved all of them and gave them all "awards"!

Most Likely to Be an Ice Cream Topping
Peanut Butter Pancake Syrup from the chapter Kick-off Brunches

We were excited to try this peanut butter syrup because we both love peanut butter and because it was so stinkin' easy...only two ingredients!  It did not disappoint.  It took me just minutes to whip up and provided a delicious topping for our Saturday morning waffles.  It's so rich that you really don't need much and probably wouldn't want it for every breakfast...although we could see putting it on vanilla ice cream in a heartbeat!  We'll be making it as an occasional treat.  This diner-style topping definitely appeals to the southerner in me. 

Most Unique
Sweet Chipotle Pretzels from the chapter Major League Munchies

These pretzels are definitely unique.  They're covered in a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and...yes...chipotle chili powder.  My taste buds really didn't know what to do with themselves!  Because of their interesting flavors, they definitely aren't the kind of snack you could over-indulge on.  They are, however, quick and easy to make...perfect for your next party or gathering.

Most Surprisingly Healthy
Slow-Cooker Cheesesteak Sandwiches from the chapter Souper-Bowl Soups, Salads and Sandwiches

The minute Cookie Bandit saw the name of this recipe, he requested that I make it instantly.  The man loves his cheeseteak sandwiches!  We decided that in the end, these really weren't much like the real Philly cheesesteaks - they aren't greasy at all.  In fact, these are kind of the healthier twin.  Great flavor, still a mess, but lighter on the calories.  They were definitely a nice change from cold sandwiches and burgers.

Creamiest Baked Mac and Cheese We've Ever Tried
Super-Easy Mac and Cheese from the chapter Slam-Dunk Mains and Sides

I almost didn't make this recipe because...I'll be honest...I'm usually not a fan of the baked mac and cheese.  I like creamy, and most baked mac and cheese recipes that we've tried are anything but.  Fortunately for me, I did try it and was pleasantly surprised - this was the creamiest baked mac and cheese ever!  It was also incredibly easy to make - you don't even have to cook the noodles first.  The one downside is that it didn't make great leftovers.  It tended to lose the creaminess, and the cracker topping got a little soggy by the second day.  That's okay, though...Pebbles loved it!

The Cookie That Just Gets Better
Pig-Out Cookies from the chapter Touchdown Treats

Oh my word, these cookies are something else!  We picked them because of their ingredient list - chocolate chips, peanut butter, chili powder, bacon, bacon grease!  I couldn't even imagine what all of those flavors would taste like together, but the answer is, "Magnificent!"  They actually taste better and better the longer they sit - by day 4, Cookie Bandit was just going nuts over them.  They are both sweet and salty, with a subtle touch of bacon flavor.  And one of my favorite things about them - they are seriously some of the prettiest cookies I have ever made, and I wasn't even trying.  They come out looking beautifully, with a texture like those Soft Batch cookies I grew up loving.  These are definitely cookies we'll be making again and again.

Bacon-Potato Chowder from the chapter Stadium-Sized Recipes for a Crowd

This was a nice hearty soup, excellent for a chilly day.  We particularly liked the addition of bacon.  As Cookie Bandit put it, bacon added that element that potato soup generally lacks. This really was a recipe for a crowd - it made 12 huge servings!

So that's the line up!  And it's probably no surprise that Cookie Bandit picked Pig-Out Cookies as his absolute that's what we're sharing with you today!

First, you start with the pig!  Cook up some bacon in a skillet, reserving the drippings.

In a mixing bowl, combine butter and bacon drippings until smooth.

Beat in peanut butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until creamy.

Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, chili powder, and salt.  Combine with rest of batter and then fold in chocolate chips and bacon.

Roll dough into balls.  The recipe says roll into 12 balls - that makes some huge cookies!  We opted to make smaller cookies so that we could enjoy them for longer.  Place balls of dough on parchment paper and flatten slightly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until golden.  Cool for 2 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack.

Pig-Out Cookies
from Gooseberry Patch's Game-Day Fan Fare
  • 5 slices bacon
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/8 t. cinnamon
  • 1/8 t. chili powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cook bacon until crisp in a skillet over medium heat.  Crumble and drain, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings; set aside.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, chili powder, and salt; set aside.  In a separate bowl, beat together butter and reserved drippings with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.  Beat in peanut butter and sugars until creamy, about 4 minutes.  Add egg and vanilla; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Reduce mixer setting to low; slowly beat in flour mixture until just combined.  Fold in chocolate chips and bacon.  Roll dough into 12 balls; arrange 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Flatten balls slightly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes, until golden.  Cool cookies on sheet for about 2 minutes; transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Makes one dozen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Below are some of my friends who are also participating in the Early Bird Reviews by Gooseberry Patch. Check out their recipes & more entries to the giveaway!

Old House Homestead
The Country Cook
Goodeness Gracious
Well Seasoned Life
Girl with Blog
Two Maids a Milking
A Recipe A Day
SusieQTpies Cafe

Monday, April 15, 2013

spinach casserole

This is one of those dishes that I grew up loving...I mean, I couldn't get enough of it!  Then I found out what was in it and was thoroughly confused.  It's got such an odd ingredient list, but it's so good!

I remember whipping up this dish when I lived in the dorms in college.  My friends saw me put spinach, cottage cheese, and cornbread mix into a bowl and thought I'd gone nuts.  A few vowed that they'd never try it.  And then they smelled it baking... :)

They tried it.  They loved it.  Just like I knew they would.

To make, thaw out a box of chopped, frozen spinach, and then squeeze it dry.  Combine it with a box of corn muffin mix (Jiffy is my favorite), cottage cheese, salt, eggs, and chopped onion.

Grab a 2-quart casserole dish and melt some butter in the bottom.

Pour the butter into the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  (Why do you have to melt the butter in the casserole dish first?  It greases your dish!)

Pour the batter into the casserole dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until it's golden.  When you insert a toothpick, it should come out clean.

Spinach Casserole
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 10 oz. box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed
  • 8.5 oz. box corn muffin mix
  • 6 oz. cottage cheese
  • 1/2 T. salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 small onion, chopped

Melt butter in a 2-quart casserole dish.  Mix all other ingredients in a separate bowl.  Pour melted butter into batter; mix and pour back into casserole dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until brown and inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

confessions of a coupon skeptic

I have to admit...I've always been very skeptical of couponing.

It's not that I don't believe coupons work.  I do.  I've seen the show.  I've seen my mom do it.  I get it.

It's just that it didn't seem like it was for me.  Here's why...
  • On the couponing shows, it seems like they mainly buy junk.  I'm a fan of the occasional candy bar just as much as the next person, but I don't need to buy junk food in mass quantities.  It's not good for me or my family. 
  • Extreme couponers spend hours on couponing.  It's a full time job!  I've already got a job...her name is Pebbles.  
  • I'm kind of an anti-stockpiler...I actually like having a fairly empty pantry.  Yes, I know...that's weird.  But I remember growing up having cabinets full of food but nothing that constituted a meal.  Or, I remember my mom having to throw out lots of food because it expired before we ended up eating it.  Yes, we may have gotten it at a great price, but it seemed like such a waste.
  • I have noticed that many amateur couponers end up spending more money buying stuff just because it was a good deal than they would have if they had bought only what they needed.
My philosophy has always been to make a detailed shopping list and then stick to the list.  Bing, bang, boom.  I figured that I saved more money by not couponing than by wasting time and energy on it.


Then this little thing happened.

And then a few weeks later, we kind of bought a house.

And a few months after that, I bought a beautiful dress and headed up to Kansas to be a part of my sister's big day.

And before you know it, we found ourselves needing to go on a stricter budget and severely cut our grocery and household expenses.  Eeeeks.

I realized that maybe it was time to rethink my shopping philosophy.  I started talking to some friends who are very successful couponers and figured out ways to make couponing work for me.  I'm not an extreme couponer...I'm never going to be.  I've also vowed the following:
  • I will never buy junk just because it's a good deal.  If it can't help me make a home-cooked, nutritious meal for my family, I don't need it.
  • I will never sacrifice time with my family in order to clip coupons.  Never ever.  Ever.
Instead, I'm going to learn to be a more savvy shopper.  I'm going to begin paying more attention to sale ads before I plan my weekly menus.  I'm going to be willing to acquire a very small (and I mean small) stockpile of those things that are staples in our home...buying those things at a great price now saves me the need to purchase them later.  I'm going to use coupons to help me buy only those things that we need, not want.  I'm going to allow coupons to bless us financially so that we can then, in turn, increase our giving to others.
So the big question now is how.  How in the world do you coupon in such a way as to maximize your savings?  I've learned that couponing is way more than just clipping out coupons and taking them to the store with you.  There's actually strategies.  Who would have thought?

I'm no expert...ha!  I've only been doing this for about 2 weeks.  I've searched lots of couponing blogs, and they all confuse's so overwhelming!  That's why I wanted to blog about my own entry into the coupon world.  I figure that if I describe my little baby steps, maybe another coupon newbie can join me and come along for the ride.  Or, maybe some of you coupon experts can share with me your tips and tricks. 

But for now, here's what I know so far:
  • Each store has a different coupon policy, and it can vary by region.  Because it can get confusing, it's best to learn couponing with just one store.  If you have questions about their coupon policy, ask the customer service desk.  If you have questions about how their store ads work, ask the customer service desk.  Basically, go and make friends with the customer service desk, just so that you don't find yourself having to take stuff back later (yeah...I wish I had followed this advice).  Once you get really familiar with one store, then tackle another.
  • There are different types of coupons.  Manufacturer's coupons are issued by the manufacturer of the product.  They actually pay the store the money on the coupon, so the store isn't losing money at all.  Manufacturer's coupons can be used at any stores that take coupons.  Many stores also issue store coupons.  These can only be used in the store that issues them.
  • To maximize your savings, use a manufacturer's coupon at the same time as a store coupon - yes...they can be stacked!  Even better, do it when an item is on sale.
Here's how this actually played out for me.

I decided to learn couponing at Target.  Target offers lots of store coupons on their website (scroll to the very bottom of their webpage and look under "Ways to Save."  These rotate, so it's a good idea to check back every one or two weeks to see what's new.  I printed off only those coupons for products that my family might use.  Sometimes I find a lot...sometimes I find nothing.

I got manufacturer's coupons online as well.  You can go to a website like or to look through hundreds of coupons.  Once again, I printed off only those coupons for products that my family might use.  You can print up to two coupons, so if it was a product we use often, I printed two.

Last week, I realized that I had a lot of store coupons and manufacturers coupons for the same products...score!  I also had some coupons for items that were on sale.  Here's what I got and how much I saved.

I love Method brand cleaner.  It's originally $2.99 a bottle at Target, but it was on sale for $2.66.  I had two  store coupons for $1 off a bottle.  End price - $1.66 a bottle.

Original price for 2 bottles of Method cleaner - $5.98.
What I paid - $3.32
Savings - $2.66 or 44%!

We were needing some toilet bowl cleaner, and I happened to have coupons for Green Works brand.  Do I need 3 toilet bowl cleaners?  No.  But, my church happens to be doing a drive for household products to provide to families who are struggling financially.  I decided to buy one cleaner for me and donate the other two.

Each Green Works toilet bowl cleaner cost $2.49.  I had a manufacturer's coupon for $0.75 off of any 1 Clorox product (since it contains Clorox, it counts!).  I also had a manufacturer's coupon for $1 off of any 1 Green Works product.  Finally, I had a store coupon for $2 off of 3 Green Works toilet bowl cleaners.  End price -$3.72.

Original price of 3 bottles Green Works toilet bowl cleaner - $7.47
What I paid - $3.72, or $1.24 a bottle.
Savings - $3.75 or 50%!

Gold Bond lotion is my absolute favorite.  It costs $7.99 a bottle...pricey!  Fortunately, I had 2 manufacturer's coupons for $1 off a bottle.  Then, I had a store coupon for $3 off of 2 bottles.  End price - $5.49 a bottle.

Original cost of 2 bottles Gold Bond lotion - $15.98
What I paid - $10.98
Savings -  $5 or 31%!

Vitamins are soooooo expensive!  These Nature Made prenatal vitamins originally cost $11.67 apiece.  Fortunately, they were on sale for $9.91 apiece.  I had a manufacturer's coupon for $1.75 off of two.  I also had a store coupon for $3 off of 2.  End price -  $7.54 a bottle (and now I'm set for 6 months!).

Original cost of 2 bottles Nature Made prenatal vitamins - $23.34
What I paid - $15.07
Savings - $8.27 or 35%!

Babies need medicine.  My poor kiddo has to take Miralax occasionally, and that stuff is expensive.  This bottle originally cost $16.99....eeks.  I had a manufacturer's coupon for $3 off or 18% savings!  End price - $13.99. 

We have also gone through our fair share of Children's Tylenol thanks to teething, ear infections, and the like.  I didn't have any coupons for Tylenol, but I was lucky enough to find this particular box in the clearance section.  Originally, it cost $6.49...I got it for $4.54...savings of  $1.95 or 30%!  I can't figure out why it was in the clearance section - this box doesn't expire until 2015!  Lesson learned - it always pays to check out the clearance racks.

Original cost of children's medicine (Miralax and Tylenol) -  $23.48
What I paid - $18.53
Savings - $4.95 or 21%

Finally, I bought razors.  I never buy razors...I will make one disposable razor last for months.  But, even I realized that the one in my shower was desperately dull.  Each of these packages of razors contains 3 disposable razors and costs $9.49.  I had 2 manufacturer's coupons for $4 off of a package.  I also had a store coupon for $5 off of 2 packages.  End price -$2.99 a package.

Original cost of 2 packages of Schick Hydro disposable razors - 18.98
What I paid - $5.98
Savings - $13 or 68%!

Considering that I'll probably make these two packages of razors last me a full year, I'd say that's pretty awesome. :)

So...drum roll...

My total savings for this shopping trip was $37.63 or 40%!

Phew...that was a lot of math.  I think I'm going to go take a nap now.
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