Couponing

Standard

So I have started getting into clipping coupons.  I have always clipped them at random when I saw one that would save me a little money on the things I buy the most.  But about a month ago I started doing a little research after watching an episode of “Extreme Couponing” on TLC.  Now, I would never go to that type of extreme, not only because I don’t have the time but clearly in a home on wheels, I don’t have the space to store 40 things of laundry soap and 120 rolls of paper towels.  I’m not sure who really would have the space to store all the things that these women purchase.  I do, however, see their point.

So I started getting the Sunday papers and saving the inserts.  I have created a binder to hold all of the coupons from the inserts.  Also I have subscribed to a few coupon blogs that go through all of the weekly sales ads for grocery chains and match the sales with the coupons available.  The ones that I use are www.couponmom.com, www.southernsavers.com, and http://www.cuckooforcoupondeals.com/.  The first two match sales to coupons, the last one has a TON of tips, tricks, and hot deals.

I have to tell you, I really am starting to see a significant savings from just a little bit of time out of my Sunday getting prepared.  I go through all the deals they point out, make my list based on what I need that week, gather all my coupons up into a little coupon holder, and head to the store.  I basically just go to one grocery chain and one large box store, but if there’s a really good drugstore deal, I’ll take the time to go there too.  If you’re willing to only purchase items that are on sale and step out of the box of “I only buy this brand”, you really can save 50-85% off of your grocery bill.  My box-store purchase this week was originally $38.76 and after coupons, I paid less than $10.00.  And this was with 2 impulse purchases that weren’t on my list.

One example:  the box store had Febreeze Noticables Warmers for $2.07.  The 8/28 P&G insert had a coupon for $3.00 off.  I not only got the Warmer for free, but made $.03 towards the rest of my purchase.  Crazy! I did this with several items, either purchased them for free or made a few cents for each one.

I’m not saying this is for everyone, I just thought I’d share how my experience is going so far.

***Disclaimer:  Neither the sites I noted above, nor the product I mentioned know who I am.  I’m not being paid by any of them and/or looking for sponsorship or recognition.  The end.

Homemade Slider-Style Mini Burgers

Standard

Happy Labor Day to everyone! I hope everyone gets a chance to relax a little bit today.  I, for one, am getting some much-needed organization done in the home on wheels and will be watching some movies that I’ve wanted to catch up on since it’s raining cats and dogs outside.  Tropical Storm Lee has arrived in the mountains and although J and I were hoping to go play some golf together–something we rarely have the chance to do–a movie day works, too.

After the organizing and the movie watching, we’re having a big Labor Day potluck in our Clubhouse.  The ladies around here know how to throw down some food, let me tell you.  There will be casseroles and salads and someone will bring a ham.  I’m going to make sliders. Not just any type of slider, sliders that taste just like those little mini-burgers you get at that certain fast-food chain.  You know the one I mean.  Not only are they tasty, they couldn’t be easier and are perfect for a potluck.

Here is the recipe for these scrumptious little burgers.  Enjoy!

2 lbs of ground meat     I use a mix of ground chuck and ground sirloin, but you could use turkey, or plain ole ground beef.

1 envelope onion soup mix

1/2 c mayo

2 c shredded mild cheddar cheese

24 Hawaiian dinner rolls     The sweet ones that come 12 to a package.  You could certainly use any type of deli dinner roll.

1/2 c melted butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the ground meat, onion soup mix, and 2 T of water in a skillet and cook until the meat is browned through.  Drain thoroughly and let cool slightly.  While the meat mixture is cooling, cut the tops off of all the rolls.  Tear off a large piece of aluminum foil and lay it lightly on top of a cookie sheet.  You won’t need to use the cookie sheet but it makes it easier to lay the burgers in the foil and wrap them all up.  So, put all the bottoms of the rolls side by side on the foil.  Stir the cheese and mayo into the meat mixture.  Spread some of the mixture on the bottom half of each roll and then put their lids on.  Brush the tops of each lightly (!) with the melted butter.  You don’t want to douse them, just enough to get them moistened.  Wrap them all up in aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes.  Wrapping them in the foil and “steaming” them makes them come out just like those famous little burgers from that fast food place.  By the way, you can put a pickle slice on the bottom of each roll before spreading the meat mixture on, but we don’t like pickles on our burgers so I leave them out. I will, however, take some pickles, cut up cheese slices, mustard, and ketchup to the potluck for people to add as they desire.

 

 

Dream dinner

Standard

I was thinking to myself the other day, if I could have a “dream dinner” with anyone I wanted, living or dead, who would I choose? And why would I choose them? What a hard choice to make! There are so many people who I would love to meet and have a conversation with; and, there are so many people who have left this life that I wish I could share a meal with again.  These are the 5 people who I would love to eat, drink, laugh, and talk with, whether for the first time or just one more time.

1.  My grandma.  I lost my grandma several years ago to breast cancer.  This was heartbreaking for me for many reasons.  I grew up with this woman being everything to me.  The memories that I have growing up in Kansas all center around her.  The fried chicken, the homemade noodles that I never thought I’d master, the dumplings that I still haven’t mastered.  The lettuce out of the garden with the best salad dressing out of a mason jar and the juiciest tomato slices ever.  Sitting on the porch with her snapping beans or laying in bed at night listening to oldies.  When she died, I remember thinking that I should have talked to her more often, should have made more of a point to see her.  When life gets in the way of things and the people you love are healthy, you think you have all the time in the world. But from the time of her diagnosis until the day she passed away, we had just a few months.  I’m not sure if I would cook for her or beg her to cook for me one last time.  Really, I’m not sure I would care if we ate anything at all.  I would just love to have one last time to ask her all the things I wanted to but never did.

2.  Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I feel like I know Laura, I’ve read every book either written by her or about her.  I was introduced to her books at a young age, and as I said before, fell in love.  Her spirit, her independence, her love of family.  But those were stories, loosely based on her life.  I would love to sit and talk with her and learn the real stories of what it was like to be a true pioneer.  To know what it was like to travel across the country in a covered wagon, not knowing where you were going to end up or what you were going to find along the way.  Not only would I learn the real story of Laura, but I would also learn what it was like for my own ancestors who traveled the same way to and from the same places.

3.  Amelia Earhart.  I have always admired this woman.  She was a female pioneer with an adventurous spirit.  In a time when women were “supposed” to marry, have children, and keep a home, she was flying over the Atlantic.  She was an early supporter of equal rights and taught and encouraged women to pursue careers of their own.  She was a businesswoman who not only gave endorsements but was actively involved in the products.  The luggage line that she helped create is still be produced today.  And of course there is the mystery of her death.  What happened, how did it happen, where was it at? I would so love to hear the answers to those questions and more.

4.  Margaret “the unsinkable Molly” Brown.  Can you imagine what it was like to board the “Titanic”? The wonder and awe at the enormous ship and all it contained.  Not only did she survive the sinking of the Titanic, which is an incredible thing in itself, Maggie worked to assist women and children in her city of Denver, helped create one of the first juvenile courts in the country, and attempted to run for Congress when women didn’t even have the right to vote.  She used her ambition and imagination to go from very poor roots to the top of high society.  The stories this woman could tell!

5.  Annie Oakley.  This woman overcame poverty, mistreatment, and injury with character and determination.  She was the star attraction in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show for many years, becoming famous for such things as shooting the ashes off a cigarette held in her husband’s mouth.  Can you imagine?! Her talent and accomplishments played a role in breaking barriers for women.  She spent time in near servitude as a child, was injured in an accident that left her partially paralyzed, yet at 62 years old she was still setting shooting records.  She was a legend in her own time.  As a youngster who wanted to be a cowgirl, I thought Annie Oakley was the coolest cowgirl that ever lived!

As you can see, I happen to admire strong, independent, fearless women.  Each of these women was someone who affected me in some way as a child.  I read about them, learned from them, daydreamed about being them.  Sharing a meal with these 5 women would be entertaining, educational, and inspiring.  I think I’ll challenge my friends to come up with their own lists and share them. It would be so interesting to see who they would choose!

A few of my favorite things…

Standard

I have lots of favorite things.  Don’t you? But I thought it would be fun to come up with a  few of the things I just couldn’t get through life without.  Everyone has something they could never cook without…or a specific brand of hairspray…or one type of toilet paper vs another. Ok, the toilet paper might be going a little bit too far.  Anyway, here are 5 of my very favorite, can’t-live-without things, in no particular order.

1.  KitchenAid Stand Mixer

I cried when I received this for Christmas a few years ago.  Seriously.  I am a sucker for anything kitchen-related and I can do so many things with this bad-boy.  Squeeze juices, make pasta, grind my own fresh meats, knead bread dough, or just mix up cakes, cookies, and pies.  I love my mixer.  J says I pet it every time I walk by it…but I’ve never done that, he’s lying.

2.  Kindle

This is one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given.  Books are a HUGE part of my life, I’m always reading something no matter where I am or how busy I might be.  The problem is, where do you store hundreds of books? Because that’s how many I have accumulated and I HATE giving them up.  No problemo, senorita! You store them on your Kindle.  THOUSANDS of them! Plus magazine subscriptions, newspapers, games, and it even has a browser and free Wi-Fi so you can download a new book from virtually anywhere.  And guess what else? There are millions of books out there to download for free.  FREE books! Now granted, the free ones aren’t necessarily on the NY Times Bestseller list, but they’re still good ones! I have almost 200 books on my Kindle right now and over half of them were free.  I don’t know how it can get any better than this little toy, if you’re a book lover.

3.  Diet Dr Pepper

Whatever, this is a valid can’t-live-without thing! I’m sure there are millions of people out there who would tell me I really should be living without it but hey, we all have our vices.

4.  My laptop.  I’m not going to take a picture of my laptop and put on here because, well, why would I do that? I’m on it daily, hourly, minutely…uh, I’m on it A LOT.  I work on it, I research on it, I play on it, I connect with people on it, I shop on it.  It stores my important data, tells me what I’m doing today, lets me pay our bills, and balance the checkbook.  There just isn’t much I don’t do on my laptop.  I guess this favorite “thing” maybe could have been “the internet”, but if you can’t touch it, it’s not a “thing’, right? Something like that.

5.  Slow-cooker

This is arguably the single biggest time-saving appliance I own.  And I would also say some of my best meals come out of it.  What is not to love about this thing? You throw a bunch of ingredients in it, turn it on, and 6-10 hours later serve a delicious meal from it.  Aside from my mixer, this has to be my favorite kitchen appliance.  I can’t imagine not having one.  Actually, I have 3.

***Disclaimer:  None of these product’s companies know me from Adam.  I am not hoping to get anything for free by listing them nor am I being paid by them, they are just things I use and love.  The end.

Heirloom tomato sauce

Standard

Last night I had a couple of nice steaks ready for J to grill for us.  Baked potatoes and a nice salad and my dinner plans were easy and complete.  Then I walked out to my little garden and saw I had 4 huge, perfectly ripe Brandywines just sitting on the vine, waiting for me to notice them.  Hmmm….steaks or sauce?  Ok, as I considered the fresh basil, parsley, oregano, and thyme surrounding the tomato plant, and the 2 sweet banana peppers that were as red as the tomatoes, sauce won.  I wasn’t sure if I could actually make sauce out of these tomatoes, because I would really rather stand at the kitchen sink and eat them like a ripe peach.  They are so juicy and sweet, truly the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten.  They remind me of my childhood summers with my grandma, eating the amazing produce she brought in from her garden every day.  Oh the memories.  Anyway, back to the topic.

Turns out, these sweet, juicy heirlooms make one heck of a sauce.  One thing though–we don’t like bland food.  I know most chefs would say to simply cook the tomatoes with some olive oil, garlic, and basil, and be done with it.  The tomatoes are the star.  Well, I’m not a chef and I think that’s boring.  The tomatoes are still the star, but they have lots of supporting actors helping them along.  So this isn’t a bland, boring, simple sauce.  It is spicy and yummy and makes you want more.  Here’s what I used.  (Keep in mind, I’m not the best “measurer” so I’m giving you the closest estimation I can get.)

2 T olive oil

1 onion, chopped–I used a Vidalia

2 large sweet banana peppers, chopped–Of course, any sweet peppers will do.

T minced garlic

Sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes

2 T red wine

4 large heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped–I didn’t bother with blanching them and taking the skins off, but you could if you want.

2 T fresh parsley, couple sprigs fresh thyme and oregano

T granulated garlic

T onion powder

T beef base paste, or could use a couple of bouillon

t sugar

handful of parmesan

3 basil leaves, cut into ribbons

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 lb thin spaghetti…but use whatever you like.

Just saute the onions and peppers in the olive oil until softened, then add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for a few seconds.  Add wine and cook until reduced. Throw in the rest of the ingredients except the parmesan and basil, and simmer on low for about an hour, until the sauce is thickened.  At this point I took out my handy-dandy immersion blender and gave it a whir because I wanted the sauce a little smoother, but that’s your call.  Then I tossed in a little parmesan and the basil and tossed it with the spaghetti. This only makes enough for 1/2 lb of pasta but obviously the recipe can be doubled. Super healthy, flavorful sauce that actually tastes kinda meaty.  I was going to take a picture of it when it was finished but I didn’t remember until after we ate it all up.  Sorry.  (Not really)