Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Laundry Room Re-Do--Part 2

So you want to re-do your laundry room, need a little inspiration?  Here's the (almost) finished product of my laundry room re-do.  I'd still like to install a new light fixture, but I'm going to shop around and hopefully not spend more than $15 on a new one.
Here's a shot of the back wall.  Unfortunately my shelving and its contents covered up the stripy-ness (yes that's a word), but I'm still happy with the end result.  I found a home for all my overflow baking products, cake boxes and other paraphernalia.  The microwave also got a new home over the washing machine.  We installed a metal support bracket on the microwave shelf since it's pretty heavy.
 I bought these 'under the shelf' style baskets for $5 a piece at Lowe's.  I'm using them to store floor cleaning supplies and dryer care items.  I love these for bottom shelves where space often gets wasted.

We took the door down, lightly sanded it, primed it, painted it and installed new brushed nickel hardware.  All of our interior doors have brass hardware; we're changing out one set of hardware a month until it's all brushed nickel.
Aren't those brackets lovely?!  They're antique brackets that I've had sitting around for months (or years, no judging please) and decided here was as good a place as any to put them.  This shelf is extra tall for my super tall serving pieces.

The whole project took one weekend.  Here's the cost breakdown.

  • Paint & Primer--had on hand $0
  • Shelving--had on hand $0
  • 3, 1"x2" boards--$21
  • 2 antique brackets--on hand, $0
  • Contact Paper--$5 (with lots left for other projects)
  • 1 metal bracket--$3
  • Storage Containers--$4
  • 2 Storage Baskets--$10
  • New Door Hardware--$11
  • Command Hooks--had on hand $0
So for $54 I got a new laundry room.  This is $4 more than we had budgeted.  I told myself this is O.K. because we would have replaced the hardware anyway.  I got to use some things I had laying around (there's a lot of that in my house) and I got a new laundry room with lots of great storage!

Have you redone a room on the cheap lately?  Share it with us!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake--Ulimate Quick Dessert

Have a late night sweets craving?  Need a dessert to take to a dinner ASAP?  Just want to make your family something special and delicious without spending hours slaving in the kitchen?  Look no further than the quick and easy classic Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  This cake goes together in a snap, bakes in about 35 minutes, is best served warm (so no waiting!) and is made with pantry staples!


1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/3 c. chopped pecans
7 pineapple rings (1 20oz can with 3 leftover)

3TBSP butter, room temp
1/4 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 c. flour
1/2 c. milk

Preheat the oven to 375.  Spray a 9" cake pan with baking spray.  Make the topping by melting the butter and mixing in the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Spread the topping in the bottom of the pan.  Lay the pineapple rings in the pan.  Fill any holes with chopped pecans.  Set aside.

Using a hand mixer or wooden spoon mix the butter and sugars together.  Mix in the egg, salt, cinnamon and baking powder.  Mix in half the milk and then half the flour.  Mix in the remaining milk and flour.

Carefully pour the batter evenly over the topping.  Use an offset spatula to smooth the batter over the entire pan.

Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge.  Place a serving plate on top of the cake pan and carefully flip the cake over, tapping the bottom of the pan until the cake releases.  If any of the pineapple rings stick to the pan pull them out and lay them back on top.

This cake is best served warm which means no waiting for a cake to cool!

**Adapted from the King Arthur recipe 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Laundry Room Re-Do

We've lived in our house for 3 years now.  We've done something to every room in our house.  Every room but one...our laundry room.  It's one room we're in and out of all day, everyday and we hadn't touched it! 
Well I finally got tired of the beat up paint, lack of storage space and the seemingly cramped quarters.
The problem?  I didn't want to shell out big bucks for a room makeover.  Especially for a room that few people see.  So I talked it over with the hubs and we decided on $50 to redo the room. 

Here's a few before shots of our laundry room.

The Problems
  • Off to the right  used to be a white wire shelving unit that held the microwave and other misc. junk.  It was taking up so much floor space I couldn't get a laundry basket comfortably in front of the dryer.  
  • The door was storing my large collection of sprinkles, but it rattled when the door opened, the kids could get into everything and the shelving was scratching the paint on the door.
  • I needed more shelving to store large serving dishes, candles and other odds and ends.
  • My brooms, mops etc needed a home.
  • The walls were scuffed, peeling and the room was generally depressing.
Plan of Action
  • Paint the back wall a cheery color to brighten up the space.
  • Repair the other 3 walls and give them a fresh coat of paint.
  • Install an additional shelf above the washer/dryer and 1 shelf on the opposite wall.
  • Find the cleaning supplies a home.
  • Organize and beautify!
Here's the work in progress.

 After we repaired the walls we taped off some wide stripes on the back wall and got down to painting.  We decided to keep the remaining 3 walls neutral, so we just gave them a quick touch up.  We reused paint from other rooms in the house, so no cost to us there.

Thankfully we save anything we think we could ever use, so we had leftover shelving from a closet.  That gave us enough shelving for our additional 2 shelves.  We pulled the existing shelves down, sanded them, painted them and then I topped them with some bright, cheery contact paper I bought at Wal-Mart.

The hubs mounted all our shelves and I went to work filling them up with all my stuff!  The cleaning items got a new home on Command Hooks (I love those things) on the back of the door.

Want to see the final product and get the cost total for this laundry room re-do?  Stop by tomorrow and get the skinny!

Stop over at Not Just a Housewife for a linky party showcasing some very neat Spring projects. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Money Saving Monday: Be a Planner

Every Monday for the rest of the year I'll be bringing you a money saving tip!  If you have a favorite way to save some money feel free to chime in!
Today I'm talking about being proactive as a way to save money.  How will this save you money? 
In today's culture we're all about now.  By thinking about the future you can save yourself a substantial amount of money. 
Here's an anecdote for you.  In October our living room TV died.  It just gave up on living.  It was football season, and we were sad.  A large portion of the US would probably have purchased a new TV that very week.  Well, as much as we wanted to, we refrained and started researching TVs.  We went TVless for 7 weeks while we scoured the stores for the very best deal.  In the end we got a great deal on a very nice TV.  It was tough waiting, but in the end we saved over $250 by having a little patience.
This is a great way to save a lot of money, but it's also a great way to save small amount on a daily basis (which will add up over time).  By purchasing thing like laundry and dish detergent, sponges, diapers and dry groceries when they are on sale I can save a big chunk of change on our grocery bill!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Publix Best Buys 3/20-3/27

This week's Publix Ad is GREAT.  I walked out with far more than I normally do.  Here are the best deals of the week.

  • Publix 1lb Butter $2.00
  • Steamfresh Veggies $1.30
  • Simply Mashed Potatoes $1.89 ($.75/1 & $1/2 Publix Q) $.65ea
  • Eat Smart Veggies $1
  • Sabra Hummus $2.00
  • International Delight 32oz $1.55 ($.55) $1
  • Sargento Shredded Cheese $2.09 ($.55/2 & Free Egg Publix Q) $1.81ea and Free Eggs!
  • Craisins & Craisins Trailmix $1.23
  • Uncle Ben's Rice, boxed mixes $1.00 ($1/2) $.50ea
  • Mueller Pasta $.80
  • Dole Pineapple $.71 ($.50/2) $.21ea
  • Swanson Broth $1.30 ($.40/2) $.90ea
  • Toufayan Flatbread $1.25
  • Mott's Medley or Apple Juice $1.50 ($1/1 Medleys) $.50
  • Domino 5lb Sugar $2.49 ($.50) $1.49
  • Texas Toast Croutons $.89
  • Purex Detergent $3.50 ($1.00/1) $2.50
  • Reese's PB Eggs $1.55 ($1/2 & $1/2 Target Q) $.55ea
In total I spend $44.80 (wwaaayyy more than usual) and saved $72.28; that's 62%!  I also picked up the penny item this week (Publix brand 'sandwich cookies').  I was lucky this week and I had a Publix gift card which covered my run!  Hurray!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Starbucks Groupon--Friday, March 3/22

My husband just got an e-mail that there will be a Groupon deal on Starbuck's gift cards tomorrow!  He got the deal a day early (though I have no clue why I didn't!) so check your inbox and see if you got an invitation to purchase this deal early.
The deal is a $10 gift card for $5.  I love this deal because I love Starbucks as a place to curl up with a book and get away from my life!
This usually sells out so if you want it be sure to buy first thing in the morning!
If you're not a Groupon member you can click here for my referral link to sign up!  I admit I don't buy too much from Groupon, but they do have some spectacular deals from time to time.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

No Time? How to Get a Healthy Dinner on the Table in No Time!

We're all busy.  We have lives to live.  Sometimes life's schedule goes a little over and those best laid dinner intentions are quickly shoved onto the back burner.  We turn to take out, drive thrus, frozen fish sticks or worst yet, no real dinner at all. 
If this happens sometimes it's not a bad thing.  Variety is the spice of life.  I'm not crusading against Happy Meals here.  What I am saying is that this happens to a lot of us more often that it should.  With a little prep, a well stocked pantry/freezer and the willingness to do a little work you can get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.  I don't know about you, but where I live it's going to take me 30 minutes to run out to our closest restaurant (Mexican) and back.
Well, you say, enlighten us please.  Gladly.  Here's a few tips on how I get dinner on the table after a crazy day and a few ideas to get you started.
  • Keep a well stocked pantry/freezer.  Pasta, jarred sauce, frozen veggies, frozen ravioli, sandwich meats and cheeses can be great jumping off points for a meal.  If you don't have to run to the store, you're more likely to make dinner.
  • Don't beat yourself up for serving a boxed mac and cheese to your family.  Do serve a vegetable alongside it.  I love the Birds Eye Steamfresh veggies...I don't even have to dirty a dish!
  • Cook for your freezer.  Making meatballs, enchiladas, french toast or soup?  Make a double batch and freeze one. Then all you have to do is defrost, warm and serve!  You've already done the work, now reap the benefits.
  • Breakfast is your friend.  Breakfast is quick and cheap.  When all else fails I always have the ingredients on hand for pancakes or waffles.  I mix up a batch and serve them alongside a big fruit salad.
  • Do the prep ahead of time.  If you know it'll be a crazy day don't wait until 5PM to think about dinner.  You can chop veggies, marinade (or in some cases cook) meat and do other prep work hours or days ahead of time.  By washing and chopping vegetables and pounding out meat ahead of time I can put Chicken Piccata and a salad on the table in just at half and hour!
  • Don't set yourself up for failure.  If you even think the day is going to be wild don't plan on making lasagna for dinner.  Plan ahead if you can and if the day has gotten away from you take stock of what you've got and work with it.
I hope this has given you a little inspiration to use what you have and avoid the dinnertime crunch.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chicken and Dumplings or are they Noodles?

Everyone makes Chicken and Dumplings a different way.  Some people make dumplings that get dropped into the soup, some get dropped on top and some people make it with an egg noodle.  I grew up with a thick noodle style dumpling, and I like it a lot, but sometimes the clock wins.  No matter which way you whip 
This recipe uses a Dutch style egg noodle.  You want a starchy type noodle for this.  The type I use says 'Dumpling Style Egg Noodle' right on the bag. 
I make Chicken and Dumplings in two days because I think it's easier.  If you do it in two days it allows you to create a more flavorful stock and to skim all the fat off the stock easily.  Doing this also means that it comes together in a snap the day of.  If you have a whole day to do this though feel free to make it in just one day.

  • 1 whole chicken, 4-5lbs (giblets removed)
  • 1 gal water (or more, you need enough to cover the chicken by 1-2")
  • bay and 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 1 carrot, halved
  • 2 stalks celery, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 8oz dumpling style egg noodles
  • salt & pepper

Place the chicken, water, bay and peppercorns in a large pot.  Bring the chicken to a boil and back the heat down to a simmer.  Cook for about 1 hour, until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken to a baking sheet and allow to cool enough to handle; leave the broth on the stove.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle pull the chicken off the bones; leave it in nice chunks and put it in the fridge.  Discard the skin. 

 Skimming stock.

Place bones and ingredients 4-7 into the pot.  Allow the stock to simmer for 2 hours.  Cool the stock completely and skim off the layer of fat that has formed (you can skip this step for 1 day prep).

When you're ready to make the Chicken and Dumpling bring the stock to a boil and add in the chopped carrot, onion and celery.  Cook for 30 minutes, until the veggies are fork tender.  Add in the dumpling style noodles and cook according to the directions.  The noodles I use take about 15 minutes to cook, much longer than the standard type egg noodle, so plan accordingly.  During the last 5 minutes add in the chicken to warm through.

Season the dish with lots of salt and pepper and serve up for your family to enjoy!

Publix Best Buys 3/13-3/19

At first glance I wasn't over the moon about this weeks Publix ad, but after shopping I was pretty pleased with what I purchased. 
This week was a higher than average Publix total but I bought some salmon for dinner tonight at just $5.99lb, which in landlocked TN is a great price!  I'm always pleased with Publix's salmon.  It's not wild caught (which is my preference) but I've never gotten a pin bone in it and it's always fresh.

  • Dole Fruit Bowls $2.00 ($1/2) $1.50ea
  • Post, Honey Bunches of Oats $1.60 ($1/2) $1.10ea
  • Welch's Squeezable Grape Jelly $1.30
  • Bertolli Pasta Sauce ($.60/1 & $1/2 Publix Q) $.65ea
  • Bailey's Coffee Creamer $1.67 ($1/1) $.67
  • Vosko's Greek Yogurt $1 ($1/3 Publix Q) $.67ea
  • Fresh Express Salad $2 ($.55/1) $1.45
  • Smart Balance $1.49 ($1/1 or $1/2, I used $1/1) $.49ea
  • Vidal Sasson Professionals Shampoo/Conditioner 2/$5 (BOGO coupon) $1.25ea
  • V8 Splash $1.35
  • Pedigree Denta Stix $1.99 ($1/2) $1.50ea
  • Green Giant Frozen Veg. (boxes) $.99 ($.60/3) $.79ea
There are of course, other great deals that you can find on Publix website, but these are the ones that I think give you the most bang for your buck.  I really like the Bertolli sauce, so to get it for this price is a steal!

 Not all my buys are featured here...I had started putting groceries away when I remembered to snap the shot!

This week at Publix I spent $25.94 and saved $33.90!  That's a savings of 57%!  I love shopping at Publix! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Toddler Time--2 Year Old Meal Plan Ideas

Some of the most popular posts here at Courtney Cooks It are my ideas for baby and toddler foods.  So back by popular demand, Toddler meal ideas!  Once a month I'll be posting recipes, meal plans and snack ideas for your toddler. 
Currently Miss. Sophie is two,

which means most of my ideas will be ideally suited toward kids of her own age.  This kid is an eater though, so portion wise some of these ideas might work well for kids toward three!
Before we talk about what I'm feeding her today let's talk about what I fed her last year. 

  • When Sophie started eating solid foods I fed her what we ate.  I might pull back the seasoning a little and, of course cut it very small or puree it, but she basically ate the same thing we did. 
  •  I made sure she had a wide exposure to different flavors and a minimal exposure to sweets and processed foods.
  • I let her experiment with the food.  If she made a mess, well she made a mess!  They're babies, let them have fun!
Alright, back to the present.  Here are some great ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  Sophie will typically have just one snack in the afternoon (after nap) but some kids are two a day snackers (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 snacks a day). 

Disclaimer: I AM NOT a pediatrician, dietician or any other type of -tician.  I AM a concerned mom who cares what her daughter eats.  I am sharing with you what has worked well for us.  

  • Greek yogurt and fruit or toast
  • Oatmeal with applesauce or fruit mixed in, topped with a little honey
  • Eggs, wheat toast and a fruit
  • Fruit salad with toast
  • Cereal, we like Chex or Fruity O's (from Cascadian Farms) topped with fruit
Lunch (one item from each category)
  •  Lunch meat (Sophie likes the Oscar Meyer, Carving Board), hard boiled egg, meatballs, cheese, mac and cheese or shredded chicken breast
  • Tomatoes, peas, corn, sugar snap peas or green beans
  • Fruit  I buy whatever happens to be in season.  If the fruit is out of season, expensive or sub par I usually reach for a natural, no sugar added, applesauce or a Dole fruit cup in fruit juice (never one that has been sweetened with sugar or sugar substitutes).
  • Pretzels, crackers, Triscuits or ghram crackers.
  • Dried fruits
  • Chex Mix
  • Fruit
  • Fruit/Yogurt squeeze pouch (I love these)
  • Smoothie
  • Pita/Veggies and Hummus
  • 1/2 a PB&J

....Whatever we're eating.  It's very rare I make anything special for Sophie.  If we're having soup I may drain off the broth so it's easier to eat, if it's spicy I might back it down for her.  If we're having something she's really not a fan of I heat up something simple like cheese ravioli, oatmeal, pasta or a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.  I think it's important to expose kids to different foods.  If we feed them 'kid food' at every meal how are we supposed to one day just expect them to eat regular fare?
I also give her a fruit with dinner, regardless of whether we eat one.  She loves fruit and it's a healthy dessert option!

I hope this might help you decide what to feed your toddler today.  Check back Friday for a great, kid-friendly, pizza dinner!

Money Saving Tip--Read the Tag

I was shopping for some pinto beans at my local Kroger yesterday to make these slow cooker 'refried beans' from Pennies & Pancakes when I noticed something hinky.   

 It was cheaper to buy two, one pound bags, than one, two pound bag. 

  This isn't the first time I've noticed something like this in a grocery store.  I always buy 1lb bags of carrots from Kroger because it's cheaper to buy 2 of those than 1 of the 2lb bags.

Do I save a lot of money by reading the tags?

You betcha'!  It's always good to look at the price per unit and determine what makes more sense.  Why would I spend more money on the same amount of product?!  I also find that by buying the smaller size of a product and using the coupon on it I decrease the cost.  If I buy a smaller tube of toothpaste, but get it for free isn't that better than buying the larger tube and getting it for a dollar?

No matter what you're buying always take a quick peek at the tag--taking 10 seconds to do the math could add up to saving big bucks over the course of a year.

Life Hack: How to add Non-Skids to Tights!

If you're the caregiver for a little girl you've probably seen them wipe out in tights.  Few, if any, of the tights and stockings I've bought for Sophie have come with non-skids on the bottom.  It's frustrating.  All the socks I buy have them, why don't the tights?!
Well within a few weeks of Miss Sophie walking (and falling, and sliding) I got sick of having to put socks over the tights.  I mean, after all the tights should be in place of socks, not in addition to!
Enter one of my new favorite life hacks!  I had some fabric puffy paint in the craft room so I decided to add some stripes to bottom of the tights.

Voila, instant (well near instant) non-skid pads!  I add 3-5 stripes to each foot and allow them to air dry for 6 hours.  If you want to get creative you could draw any shape you want.  If you've got more than one child you could add their initials, draw hearts and flowers, polka dots--anything you can dream up!  Once the paint is dry it's machine wash safe and keeps her from slipping and sliding across the kitchen floor.
Best of all this is a super inexpensive way to fix the problem.  A bottle of puffy paint is less than $1 on sale and one bottle will do lots of tights.  I used Scribbles paint.  If you have a craft store I recommend buying it there, but this isn't an awful price for 6 bottles; plus it gets shipped right to your door!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Turkey and Broccoli Mac

I don't know about your family, but my daughter and husband will eat anything if I pour cheese sauce over.  I like Macaroni and Cheese as much as the next person (maybe more) but it's not really a meal, it's more of a side dish.  So instead of serving a bunch of things on their own I mix them into my Mac and Cheese!
This is another recipe that's a basic method.  You could mix in cauliflower, peas or spinach in place of the broccoli.  Chicken, sausage, ham or even hot dogs would make good substitutes for the roasted turkey.
If you make this ahead of time and refrigerate the Mac and Cheese tack an extra 10 minutes on the cooking time to compensate.  I roast the turkey, boil the pasta and blanch the broccoli in the afternoon which makes this a snap to prepare.

8oz al dente short cut pasta
1.5 c. shredded, cooked turkey
1.5 c. blanched broccoli, cut into bite sized chunks
1/2 c. white onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. sharp cheddar
1/2 c. Parmesan, divided
2 c. milk (I use 2%)
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp Worchestchire
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
dash of cayenne


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a small soup pot saute the onion and garlic in the butter over medium heat.  Once the onion is translucent sprinkle the flour in and stir continuously.  You may prefer to use a whisk.  Cook until the flour is well combined.  SLOWLY pour in the milk while stirring (or whisking) vigorously.  If you do this all at once it will turn into a clumpy mess.

Stir in the Worcestershire, mustard and cayenne.  Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.  Be sure to stir it frequently and do not let it boil.  Once the sauce has come to a simmer turn off the heat and mix in the cheddar and half the Parmesan.  Season the sauce to taste.
Fold in the pasta, turkey and broccoli.  Pour the mixture into an oven safe casserole (I use a round one that has a lid for easy storage) and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan.  You could also add some bread crumbs to the top if you like.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minute.  Allow it to sit for 10 minutes before enjoying.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Split Pea Soup

It would appear I've been in a soup mood lately.  Out weather has been cold, wet and dreary so soup is a welcome respite from what's going on outside.
Split Pea soup is another easy and fast soup to make.  Unlike most dried beans split peas need no soaking and no long cooking time.  I make this soup from start to finish in 2 hours, but if you're in a hurry you can crank the heat and finish it in about 1 hour.
When you reheat the soup it will likely need some extra water or stock to bring it back to your desired consistency.  This would also be a great soup for the freezer, but it comes together so quickly I've never felt the need to freeze it.
You could also elevate the presentation of this soup by topping it with homemade croutons, grated Parmesan or crispy ham.

1 lb split peas
2 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup ham or 1 ham hock
6 cups ham stock, chicken stock or water
salt and pepper
1 cup frozen peas
lemon wedge (optional)

In a large, heavy bottomed soup pot, or enameled cast iron pot heat the oil over medium heat.  I use an enameled cast iron pot for most soups; it holds in the heat and cooks very evenly.
Saute' the onion, celery, carrot and thyme until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add in the peas, bay, ham and liquid of choice.  I had made boiled ham and potatoes for dinner the night before, so I had some great ham stock leftover.  Chicken stock is a great choice for this though, but water is sufficient in a pinch.

Bring the soup to a boil, then back the heat down to medium low, cover, and let the soup simmer for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes check the soup, give it a stir and taste.  Season the soup to taste.  If the soup has absorbed all the liquid add some more.  I sometimes use up to 8 cups of liquid for this soup, water is sufficient for the extra 2 cups though.
Cook the soup for an additional 15 minutes.  Add the frozen peas and allow to cook 10 minutes.  If you like you can omit the frozen peas, but I like the color, texture and freshness they add.
Once the peas are warmed through you have 2 choice.  To blend or not to blend that is the question.
If you like a more rustic, chunky texture take it to the table.  I like a smoother consistency so I blend half the soup.  It is entirely up to you.  If you're in a rush I wouldn't bother.
Serve this in big bowls and enjoy with crusty bread or a warm biscuit.  I like a small squeeze of lemon over the top.  It sounds a little crazy, but it adds a wonderful tangy, bright freshness that I find very satisfying.
I wish I had a photo of the finished product to share with you, but, as with most good food in our house, my husband started devouring it before I had a chance!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Banana Nut Bread

Banana nut bread is the perfect solution for those pesky overripe bananas.  I like to whip this up as a thank you or get well soon gift.  It's inexpensive, quick to make and universally loved.  This version has a wonderfully earthy quality to it, achieved by the addition of the almond  meal.  Almond meal, or flour, is available at health food stores and specialty food retailers.  I buy mine from Trader Joe's.


1 stick room temp butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
3 very medium, very ripe bananas
1 TBSP milk (or soy or almond milk)
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped pecans


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x5" loaf pan.  I use a silicon pan, but use whatever you have.

In the bowl of your stand mixer combine the butter, sugar, eggs, milk and bananas.  Mix on medium speed until the bananas are broken up and the mixture is incorporated.  If your bananas are nice and soft this will take about 30 seconds.  If the bananas are on the hard side I recommend mashing them with a fork before adding them in.

In a small bowl mix the remaining 8 ingredients.  Add them into the wet mixture and mix just until combined.  If you over mix your bread will be tough.

Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan and put in the oven.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour (but maybe up to 1 hour 15 minutes).

This type of bread freezes beautifully.  I often make this in advance of company and pull it out the evening before I plan to serve it.  
For a truly enjoyable experience slice it, toast it and spread it with some butter.  YUM!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Beef Stew

The very best beef stew is made with leftover Pot Roast, but no matter how large a roast I make we never seem to have any leftover!  After many stew-less years I finally set out in search of a great Beef Stew recipe.  It was much harder than I imagined.  I finally settled on Mark Bittman's Beef Stew recipe from his book, How to Cook Anything.
How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition) 
This has been a go-to cookbook of mine for years and he didn't disappoint me!
I made a few variations from his recipe and I think you should feel free to experiment too.  I thought this would be good (and very healthy) with a few handfuls of spinach thrown in at the last moment.  This makes about 8 servings of stew.


2lb sirloin tip roast, or any other low-cost roast, 1" dice
2 TBSP oil, I used olive
3 large red or yellow potatoes, 1" dice
1 large turnip, 1" dice
2 large white onions, 1" dice
2 cloves minced garlic
8oz carrots, 1" dice
3 cup. beef broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3 TBSP flour
1 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 TBSP butter 


Heat the oil in a large enameled Dutch oven (7.5 qt) over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot carefully add half the meat.  Allow the meat to brown 3-4 minutes, turn, and brown 3-4 more minutes.  You want to develop a beautiful brown crust on the meat; this is where the flavor lives. 

Once you've browned the meat remove it to a bowl and repeat with the remaining meat.
When the meat is done add the onions, garlic, salt and pepper.  Sweat them over medium heat until the onions are wilted, about 5 minutes.  Once they're wilted sprinkle the flour in and stir vigorously.  Cook the flour out for 2 minutes.  
Next slowly add the beef broth while stirring.  Be sure to scrape up all the lovely browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  After the broth is in add the thyme and bay and bring to a boil.  Back the heat down to a simmer, cover and let cook for 1 hour.
After one hour add the potatoes, turnip and carrots.  Bring the stew back to a boil, back down to a simmer, cover again and cook 45 minutes.  You want to cook it until the veggies are fork tender.  
When the veggies are tender add the peas and adjust the seasoning (it's amazing how much salt potatoes soak up).  Cook the peas 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the butter.
Enjoy the warm and delicious beef stew with a nice crusty bread.

Easter Centerpiece #1

If you're in need of a little Easter inspiration stop over at Another Cent Saved and check out my Edible Easter Centerpiece!  
I had fun creating this delicious sugary display (and more fun eating my favorite Starburst jelly beans!).

If you need to purchase Easter decor this year stop over at the Dollar Store.  They had some very cute Easter decorations out; small tin buckets, very cute Easter eggs and some adorable pinwheels I'll be featuring on cupcakes later in the Spring!  I walked out with a big bag of stuff for just over $7!

Shopping at Aldi

One of my favorite blogs, Money Saving Mom, had an article from a neat blog, Gimme Some Oven, yesterday.  These ladies have written a 3 piece article on Aldi that I really enjoyed reading. 
I just started shopping Aldi at the the beginning of the year.  Boy I could kick myself for not doing it years ago!  I've yet to spend over $10 in a trip and I am coming out with a bag full of produce, Greek yogurt and other assorted goodies.  My favorite buy of late is a bottle of pure maple syrup for just $4.99.  I've been wanting some real maple syrup for weeks, but at well over $10 a bottle it just wasn't fitting into our $50 a week grocery budget!
If you're on the fence about shopping Aldi click on over to Gimme Some Oven and see why these ladies choose to shop Aldi!