Friday, February 22, 2013

celebrating in style

We had a lovely frugalish two-part homemade Valentine's. I thought you'd like to drool over the pictures...
The weekend before love-day hubster made a scrumptious dinner of Maple Glazed Salmon with Dill Tomato Couscous. It was incredible! It's comforting to know his cooking skills are improving beyond omelettes and coffee...not that he doesn't make delicious omelette or a perfect cup of coffee :)
man in the kitchen woot woot!
On Valentine's Day I attempted to recreate our favorite date night dinners at home. A combination of P. F. Changs and The Melting Pot dinner! We've made fondue at home several times before. It's the perfect frugalish splurge while still keeping your $50. 

First Course: Cheddar Cheese Fondue with italian bread and veggie dippers. I halved the recipe and used half white wine and half milk for the liquid.  I'd suggest not skimping on cheap kraft cheddar - go for the good stuff. I found a $1.99 sale on Cracker Barrel that week and stocked up.  So SO good! A wonderful cheddar zippy flavor especially if you use extra sharp.
cheese: one of the hubster's love languages :)
Main Course: Asian Lettuce Wraps...spicy but delish! I added water chestnuts (eliminated the peanuts) and made it with ground chicken to make it a little more P. F. Changs-like. If you aren't a spice person, then you might want cut back on the ginger. Sorry, no pictures...we were too busy chowing down...

Then the piece de resistance: Mocha Fondue! Chocolate and coffee mingled together in a smooth creamy perfection. I made orange almond biscotti and marshmallows (look for a marshmallow post soon) and cut up fruit for dippers. My personal favorites were the biscotti, marshmallows, kiwi, and banana...I told you I had a lot of favorites! I cut the fat (sort of) by using half and half instead of heavy cream. Words cannot quite describe the deliciousness! 
To all my Stellar Living ladies (aka fondue connoisseurs) - try this recipe!! 
And to work all that food off we spent the weekend in the land of snow and mountains. Went snowshoeing, ate more incredibly delicious food (if you're ever in southern Vermont eat here!!), drank tons of coffee, snuggled in with books, and played settlers like a pro. Ahhh family weekends in Vermont!
peaceful frozen riverside
a little love for covered bridges
the beauty of a birch tree

Thursday, February 14, 2013

peanut butter chocolate swirl fudge

Nothing says love quite like peanut butter and chocolate. Reeses Pieces, peanut butter MMs (my favorite!), nutella and PB sandwich, chocolate cake with PB get the point. Peanut butter and chocolate are simply meant to be. Where there is one the other also exists happily alongside. (Have I used enough sicken cliches yet?? No? Keep reading.) In honor of v-day and all things couple-like I present peanut butter chocolate swirl fudge. Peanut butter and chocolate mingled together in a creamy sweet culinary perfection.

I have even better news...fudge is easy to make. Most recipes involve some heating over the stove followed by some mixing. I actually chose to make this fudge for some company because I didn't want to deal with the hassle of cookies. Lazy? Yes. But if something this delicious comes out of my laziness, than I am totally ok with that!

Give these to your hunny or make them for a crowd (a great way to proactively make sure you don't enter a sugar-induced coma from gobbling them all).
1 stick of butter
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. milk
1 c. creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. powdered sugar
3 tbsp. semi sweet chocolate or more if you'd like a more chocolaty taste

1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
2. Stir in brown sugar and milk then bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for two minute, stirring often.
3. At the same time, heat semisweet chocolate chips in a double boiler over simmering water. Remove from heat as soon as the chocolate has melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
4. Remove from brown sugar, butter, milk mixture from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla.
5. Pour peanut butter mixture over powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. A stand mixer works best.
6. Once fudge is smooth, pour into a 8x8 inch pan.
7. Swirl in chocolate by alternating pouring some peanut butter then some chocolate. Or simply pour chocolate over top to create a thin chocolate layer then take a knife and swirl the mixture around. I haven't quite mastered the pretty swirl yet, but the good news is it still tastes fantastic!
8. Chill fudge until firm then cut into squares. Use a sharp knife...a butter knife makes crumbs ahem...

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes' Easiest Peanut Butter Fudge

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

the magic of microfiber

I have a love/hate relationship with my tile and wood floors. I love the look of our abode, but I hate the tumbleweeds that form. Not even a day after cleaning, the dust begins to accumulate. I have no desire to vacuum four times a week! Or spend precious money on a box of Swiffer sweepers each month! 

Enter my new favorite thing - microfiber cloths! If you haven't discovered the magic of microfiber yet, get yourself to the dollar store and buy two for a dollar! The cloths are perfect for cleaning grubby windows, walls, and now my newest discovery - floors. I just throw them in the wash with our towels and they are ready to go for the next cleaning project. It says on the packaging to not dry them, but I have numerous times (I know - such a rebel) and they still look fine...maybe slightly shrunk. I figure when they get too gross I'll just go spend a dollar for two new ones! Frugalish!
Anyway, here is my super complicated solution to our dust bunny problem. Affix the microfiber cloth to the Swiffer sweeper wand. Turn up the Mat Kearney music and get busy attacking the tumbleweeds! I'm sure I'm not the first person trying to save a dollar or two with this invention, but I'm loving this frugalish solution! Now I'm on a quest to find other ingenious ways to use microfiber cloths...stay tuned!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

banana nut bread oatmeal

Oatmeal is my quick, cheap, gratifying go-to meal. Too tired to cook dinner? Make oatmeal. Too cold to eat cereal for breakfast? Make oatmeal. Want something filling for lunch, but the fridge is empty? Make oatmeal. Belly growling? Make oatmeal. 

Oatmeal is soul-satisfying, hunger-quenching goodness. And for the record: instant oatmeal pouches are only remnants of the real thing. Treat yourself - take ten minutes of your life and make your own flavored oatmeal. When finished applaud yourself for making something from scratch that tastes incredible with minimal effort.

Inspired by A Beautiful Mess's Oatmeal 9 Ways. Here's my version of scrumptious and warm oatmeal! It truly taste like warm banana nut bread just out of the oven (with a fraction of the time and effort). 
Banana Nut Bread Oatmeal - single serving

1 c. water (if you like thinner oatmeal add more water)
pinch of salt
1/2 c. oatmeal (I use old-fashioned)
1 banana, sliced (a half of banana works too)
1/2 tbsp. maple syrup 
1 tbsp. walnuts
dash of cinnamon
dash of allspice

1. Bring water and salt to boil over high heat in saucepan
2. Stir in oatmeal and lower to medium heat
3. Stir a few times until oatmeal is cooked. It should take a couple of minutes until the oatmeal has expanded in size and still has a little bite to it (similar to al dente pasta). Do NOT overcook it or you will have mush. 
4. While water is heating and oatmeal is cooking combine remaining ingredients in bowl.
5. Pour oatmeal over top of the banana and nut mixture and stir. 
6. Devour! 

Oatmeal is best served piping hot, but if you have delicate taste buds let it sit for a minute or two before eating. Try adding other fruits instead of bananas - raisins, blueberries, and strawberries all work perfectly with the maple/walnut/oatmeal combo. Oh and did I mention it's the perfect companion for a snowstorm? Keep warm, friends! Here comes Nemo! P.S. Anyone else think it's strange to name a winter storm after a tropical fish??

Monday, February 4, 2013

for the love of Wegmans

Devoted? Infatuated? Smitten? Call it what you'd like but I confess I'm in love with a grocery store. The bins of fresh bread still warm from the oven. The colorful rows of fresh sushi. The wheels, chunks, and slices of artisan cheeses. The cheap and reasonable grocery prices. What's not to love?

I blame my mom for the delight I get just from entering Wegmans (and for turning me into the foodie I am...thanks Ma!). We'd make special day trips every couple of months and spend the afternoon roaming the aisles shopping for Asian almond cookies, special Italian pasta shapes, almond croissants, authentic European sodas, havarti cheeses, and other delicious goods. The love affair continued when they built a Wegmans near my college. It became the fun place to "study" over a slice of decadent dark chocolate cake. Fast forward to now - I've converted my hubby into a full blown Wegmans fanatic  We both enjoy our weekly grocery shopping trip! (Yes, I know I got a good one :) 

Lately, I've had a number of people doubt the frugalness of shopping at Wegmans. Yes, the prepared foods, select cuts of meat, and crumbly cheeses can get quite expensive, but there are many fabulous deals. It's time I convert all the doubting Thomases into full blown Wegmans-lovers!
Wegmans app, strawberry almond tart, coupons, notebook - let the deal hunting begin!
And so my frugal(ish) list of reasons to shop at Wegmans: 
1) Consistent low prices -  Visit the Wegmans website and click on consistent low prices to see a current flyer. Just a few examples:

  • .49¢/lb bananas 
  • .89¢ Wegman's greek yogurt 
  • .99¢ for a bag of frozen veggies 

2) Club pack prices - stock your freezer!

  • $1.99/lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • $13.98 for 32oz of salmon
  • $9.98 for 32oz of tilapia

3) Bulk bins - especially great prices for sprinkles, 12 flavor gummy bears (a favorite special treat), dried fruits, and grains

4) Cheap date night - spicy crab sushi for me and lobster bisque for hubby - date night for a little over ten bucks!!

5) Register your card and you get Wegmans coupons each week by email, mailings with special store brand coupons, and notices of upcoming free events (for all those lovers of samples)

6) The Wegmans App - my new secret device for finding the best deals!! It's revolutionary! Download it now!!

  • search for any product and it will tell you the current price and the aisle it's found in - perfect for comparing prices and couponing
  • you can make a shopping list on the app and it will be organized according to the store layout
  • the constantly updated prices allow you to see what's on sale that may not be advertised from the comfort of your own abode...every other grocery store needs to get on this bandwagon!

7) Huge selection of specialty and organic ingredients - rarely, do I come across an ingredient that I can't find at Wegmans

8) Wegmans brand - the best store brand available! Wegmans brand products are usually as good and sometimes better than name brands.

If my list hasn't converted you, take a trip for yourself - I promise you won't be disappointed! 

P.S. I have no connection to Wegmans, beyond my love of great food at low prices :)