Monday, October 13, 2014

{Video} Trader Joe's Haul and 2 Week "He Said, She Said" Meal Plan

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I'm married to a meat eater... is this relationship doomed?

OK, so that sounds a bit dramatic.  But, more and more I'm reading about people struggling with meal planning... and way too much time and money spent at the grocery store, now that their partner, spouse, kids, or even they, themselves have moved over to a plant-based diet.  And believe me, it's usually the cook in the house that suffers the most.  And by suffer, I mean double time, and double the dishes in the kitchen.

I stopped eating meat about 3 months ago, for no particular reason except that I lost the taste for it.  And I've never looked back, and have already reaped many of the benefits of a plant-based diet.  But my husband did not... and who am I to judge, or make him fend for himself in the kitchen.  Because, let's face it, Taco Bell and tuna sandwiches can only get a person so far.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

{Video} Week 4 Matthew Kenney Raw Food Academy- Final Recap


Just now, several weeks after graduation, I've really been able to absorb what was a whirlwind month.  Really let it all sink in, and reflect on not only what I've learned, but also how this raw food culinary experience has truly changed me. 

You see, as I started down this path, I had the dream of starting my own raw food business, which I still plan on doing.  And thanks to this program, I feel like I have the skills to prepare raw food for a successful business.  But there's more to it.

Through it all, I've seen the biggest change in me.

Today, I realize that there was so much more, and over the next months I'll be sharing more of my own personal journey of some very unusual, yet pretty intense health challenges this last year. And how organic and raw food has helped me get back to health.  No more hot flashes or night sweats.  Increased energy.  And a miraculous reduction in food allergies.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash and Spinach Chili #SecretRecipeClub


OK, so it might be a tad bit early for a hearty chili recipe, but come on Fall.  I know you're out there.  It's not that I don't love you, Summer, but this year has been a bit unusual, as I spent more time in the kitchen cooking, than laying on the beach soaking up the sunshine.

And so here we are in September (I know!), at another Secret Recipe Club reveal time.  And this month I was assigned to Tracy over at Pale Yellow.  Tracy has such a fun blog.  Science teacher by day, blogger by night, and she even has two turtles. Seriously, how cute it that.

So, as I perused her recipe index, I was drawn in by many, including her Irish Cream, Key Lime Cheesecakes, and Onion Jam Pizza (and did I mention these are all vegan recipes!)  But, I opted for this delicious looking (and sounding) chili.  And it was a huge hit in our home, tonight.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Week 3 Matthew Kenney Raw Food Academy- Recap and a Fennel and Pea Shoot Salad with Spicy Balsamic Lime Vinaigrette Recipe

Bahain Soup

Week 3 was the most intense, yet most satisfying week... with some really challenging and delicious recipes.  I don't know if this happens to you, but in my schooling experience, when I'm learning something new, there comes a point where things just click.  And this week, it all seemed to come together in my mind. And I gained an ever greater respect and love for raw cuisine... plus it didn't hurt that this was sweets week.

Oh yes, it was one sweet week (also read about week 1 and week 2).

And I think my favorite sweets were these chocolate chip cookies.  This was hard for me to wrap my head around, as I'm a long-time chocolate chip cookie connoisseur.  But these kept us coming back again and again, despite the fact that there were no eggs... or butter... white or brown sugar... or even white flour.

Monday, September 1, 2014

20 Vegetarian Lunchbox Ideas for Adults- Food Bloggers Recipe Roundup


There's an undeniable excitement in the air.  And all of this back to school talk has got me in the mood to buy Hello Kitty pencil cases, bubblegum erasers, and Sergio Valente jeans... which were just as fashionable at the roller rink as on the playground, by the way.  

And don't forget grocery shopping with Mom, to stock up on Wonder bread, b-o-l-o-g-n-a, and chocolate chips for her 7-layer bars.  Yes, it was the 80's, and looking back, I'm thinking that some of those less than desirable lunchbox items were surely balanced out by our daily nutritious, homemade breakfasts and dinners.

But now, fast forwarding 30 years, I'm still wanting a fun, fast and flavorful lunch... but a little more healthy.  A little more filling.  And full of fresh veggies and whole grains.

So, today some of the best bloggers around, and I, are giving you ample ideas and beautiful vegetarian recipes to help you get motivated to make more homemade lunches. Lunches that you can take to work, or simply have ready in the fridge to help you make healthier choices, when you're busy or on the go.

Vegetarian Dish - Brown rice with lentils, cucumbers, tomatoes & feta

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Week 2 Matthew Kenney Online Raw Food Academy- Thoughts, Photos and Spicy Beet plus White on White Salad Recipes

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Kimchi Dumplings

Just half way there, and I already feel like I can confidently put a fully raw food meal on the table... for an everyday meal, or even a special occasion.  And considering I was totally inexperienced in raw food cuisine just two short weeks ago, this, is a foodie miracle. 

So, in case you haven't heard, I decided to take a four-week online raw food culinary class with Matthew Kenney's Culinary Academy out in Santa Monica (read more about week 1 here).

And there are several things that I can say have become my truths at this point... two weeks in.

Shitake Anchovies

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Week 1 Matthew Kenney Online Raw Food Academy- Thoughts, Photos and a Mango Smoothie Recipe

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Raw food cuisine is the most beautiful culinary expression of food in its purest and truest form.  As art, creativity... and mainly for health. 

To me, there's nothing more challenging, more enriching and more fun, yes, I said fun, than going to school... especially if it involves food. And especially later in life, as I've gotten so much more out of my classes now. Yes, it is never to late to find and live in your true passions... and calling.

Surfing the cookbooks on Amazon about a month ago (what else is new!), I came across one of Matthew Kenney's raw food books. I was immediately drawn in. I couldn't believe how colorful and beautiful his food is... it especially spoke to the designer in me. And after doing more research and watching his TEDx Talk, I knew I wanted to learn more. And I knew I had to learn from the best.

So, I found Chef Kenney's website and was thrilled to learn he has an online program. Now don't get me wrong, I would have loved to take the program in person (Santa Monica!)... but this online thing made it so much more cost-effective, convenient, and allowed me to start right away.

And I did. I began the program the very next week, and I've been loving every minute since.

Kale Chips

The thing I love most about this program, is that you are provided with detailed shopping lists, lessons that include videos and printable materials. Plus constant input from your instructors (even Chef Kenney), and your fellow classmates. And my classmates are from all over the world. How exciting to see the interpretations of the dishes from people with such diverse backgrounds.

And then there are the recipes. And I'm not talking your run-of-the-mill raw food recipes, but recipes so beautiful and delicious, that even the pickiest gourmet meat-eater, would be pleased... and satisfied with them.

So, our first recipe was this Beet Ravioli. And, yes, I am a serious raw beet lover now (I'd only had them roasted before... and didn't know what I was missing).

Beet Ravioli

 Followed by this Heirloom Tomato Lasagna, that made me never want to make cooked tomato sauce again.  No really... when it's made raw there's a sweetness and freshness that just can't be beat. And seriously... just look at those colors.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Vegan Parsnip Date Cardamom Tea Bread #SecretRecipeClub


When I first heard about The Secret Recipe Club, I knew I had to be part of it.  It kind of reminded me of my favorite Nancy Drew Mysteries books growing up... but with food.  And what could be better than that?  Yes, this month, my first month, was an extremely tasty month.

And today, the mystery finally unfolds.

This club is just like it sounds. You're secretly assigned a fellow blogger each month, and you get to try out one of their recipes of your choice.  And the best part is that you don't know who's making your recipe, or which one they'll pick, and vice versa.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

{Video} Petit Vour Unboxing July 2014- Luxury Vegan and Cruelty-free Beauty Products

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I think I've found my subscription box soul mate.

It's elegant... and pink.  It contains amazing products, that I don't have to think twice about what's on their ingredient list.  And it was named after one of my favorite confections ever... petit fours.

I stumbled across a blog post a few weeks ago reviewing this box, and my first thought was... all this for just $15?  And my second thought was... I need to check this out, now.

And a week later, a box of "small & temptingly luxurious cruelty-free products" (just like the small and decorated petit four dessert- with the F changed out for V for vegan) arrived at my door.  And yes, it was love at first sight.

Watch on to see my unboxing and even more tips and thoughts on the products...

Petit Vour Luxury Vegan Beauty Box- $15/mo.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

{Video} 3 Quick Vegetarian Dinners 7/23/14- Lasagna Petals, Roasted Veggie Pasta, Spinach Artichoke Quinoa Casserole #3DinnersAWeek

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This week I decided to switch it up a bit and focus on three vegetarian dinners... and they did not disappoint.  

My newest Lasagna Petal recipe offered a sweet richness that came together quicker than your typical lasagna.  And it was fun experimenting with roasting green beans, something I'd never tried before.  And just like other vegetables, roasting really brought out their flavor.  And finally, the Spinach Artichoke Quinoa was a nice change from our regular rice... and a whole lot healthier than spinach artichoke dip.  Even my guy loved it and went back for seconds.

So, watch on to see how these all came together, and to learn more about 3 Dinners a Week, click here.


Day 1:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

{Video} Trader Joe's Vegetarian Haul + 2 Weeks of Dinner Meal Plans with Recipe Links

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Back when I lived in Santa Barbara, one of my first "real" jobs was an Office Manager for Culligan Water... and yes, saying "hey, Culligan Man" still makes me smile.  Not only were the owners cool to work for, but they really believed in taking care of their employees.  Great pay, flowers for special occasions, and handing me their credit card and sending me off to Trader Joe's each week to buy food for the office.  I'd come back with boxes loaded up with soups, crackers and cookies, granola bars and other snacks... and the employees were happy.  And it was good.

And then I moved to the South, and guess what?  Trader Joe's stores started popping up here too... and it was very good.

These past few months I've been making the transition to healthier, organic foods.  And these last few weeks I've even started to eliminate meat, thanks to the fact that most of my food allergies have cleared up, and I'm now able to eat things that I haven't been able to for over 20 years... like carrots, and broccoli, and apples.

I've missed them so much, they're like dessert to me!

And while some might think this lifestyle might be very expensive, I've found that even with buying mostly organic foods, my grocery bills have gone down significantly.  First, due to knowing how to coupon at stores like Harris Teeter and Earth Fare (click each for couponing tips).  And also, taking advantage of the great prices at Trader Joe's... no coupons needed.

So, if you're thinking of adding some Meatless Mondays into your menu.  Or, if you're wanting to give a plant-based diet a try, here are two weeks of menus to help get you started with new flavors, textures, and recipe ideas.

And make sure and watch the quick video above, to see exactly what I got, and how I plan on putting together all my meals.

Week 1 Dinners:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lemony Spinach Ricotta and Sweet Potato Lasagna Petals- the basics and the accessories

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This is my third recipe for Lasagna Petals.  Which, to you, might seem a bit odd.  But to me, pretty much fits my personality perfectly.  If something works... stick with it.  

Like buying my favorite pair of pointy toe heels in black, brown, and don't forget red.  Or, revisiting the sale rack the next day to buy three more of those pencil skirts to have on backup for the next three seasons.  Or always keeping my top five in stock... lemons, cilantro, goat cheese, frozen peas and vidalia onions.  I've been blessed with the gift of decisiveness (and some might even say practicality- thanks Mom) ... at least when it comes to the basics.

Never stray too far from the basics, yet add just enough creativity and pop with accessories to keep things interesting.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Garbanzo Bean Salad Sandwich- and how eating Vegetarian the last two weeks has helped me taste clearer

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I've always found it unusual that people who were trying to eat less meat, would then fill up their freezer and fridge with chicken strips that weren't really made of chicken, crumbled ground "beef," and don't even get me started on tofu turkey.  All overly processed, "creatively" seasoned, and in the end...a far cry from anything that truly tasted like, or even resembled a big, juicy steak. 

So, as I've been re-exploring the wonderful world of Vegetarianism the last two weeks (although, I'm certainly no where near a complete non-meat eater yet, and don't know that I'd ever really want to be, either), I've been taking full advantage of some of the "perks" that were pretty much prohibited on my previous low-carb-for-over-20-years diet.  Delighting in the fact that I can now eat starchy potatoes with absolutely no guilt.  And that I can enjoy sandwiches as often as I'd like... with actual bread.  I've even grown to like (no, adore) using more of the salad veggies, and less of the lettuce... without the hassle of preparing and cleaning up after meat- especially chicken, which honestly has always grossed me out a bit.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Paris of the South Pasta and Why Asheville is Calling Me #AVLWineFest

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I'll never forget the day that I first heard about Asheville.  I had just landed a job at a prestigious college in Montecito, CA, and my boss said he was heading there the next day for a conference.  My first thought was, where in the world is Asheville (we didn't have Google back then).  And my next was, is there actually life outside of California?

Now, I'll admit this was almost 16 years ago... back before being voted the freakiest city in America by Rolling Stone Magazine.  And way before Obama not only helped put Asheville on the map, but also one of my favorite rib places.  And don't even get me started on your beer, dear Asheville.

But even then, Asheville was calling me.  Little did I know that three months later, just like their (completely brilliant and spot on) recent ad campaigns asks, "Asheville is calling... will you answer?"  I would.  And I did.  And we packed up the cars, and headed South.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

{Videos} How to Save Big at Harris Teeter Super Doubles This Week- Including Organic Products (June 2014)

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It's another week of Super Doubles at Harris Teeter, and so far it's been the best yet.  Here are the videos of my shopping trips from the last three days, including all the coupon matchups.

The sale runs through Tuesday, July 1, and some of the products include organic and natural food and personal care items like meat, organic eggs and baby food.  And my personal favorite- organic cold-pressed Evolution Orange Juice.

For more information on how to coupon, click here.  And watch on to learn how you can save money for you and your family.  Plus, be able to easily give to those in need.

Happy Couponing!

Video #1 Coupon Matchups
(*Note- items with a date and RP, SS or PG are from past Sunday newspaper coupons.  RP= Red Plum, SS= Smart Source, PG= Procter & Gamble)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

{Video} 3 Healthy, Quick Dinners 6/23/14- Roast Pork Lo Mein, Broccoli Leek Soup, Perfect Roast Chicken #3DinnersAWeek

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There's something so satisfying about trying a new recipe and having it become an instant hit.

And this week I had two... a really fun Roast Pork Lo Mein using leftover roast pork tenderloin, and whatever veggies we had in the fridge.  Plus a soup that was so good, that my Man even asked for seconds.  Super fresh and healthy, and no cream.  And on day 3, I made an old favorite, Roast Chicken.  A dish that just feels like home to me... not to mention, one of the simplest dinners when it comes to preparation and clean up.

Watch on to learn more about these go-to-meals, perfect for busy weeknights.  And to learn more about 3 Dinners a Week, click here.


Day 1-

Roast Pork Lo Mein- I adapted my recipe from this one, except I changed up the sauce a bit.  I used olive oil instead of sesame oil, and added a bit of red pepper flakes instead of hot chili sauce.  I also added the juice of one lime, to add even more depth of flavor.  And to the veggies, I added in sliced celery, and left out the sesame seeds (since I didn't have any on hand).

Day 2-

Broccoli Leek Soup

3 c. fresh broccoli florets
1 large leek, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
32 oz. chicken broth
Salt and Pepper
Red pepper flakes
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Olive oil

In a skillet, add olive oil and sliced leeks.  Saute until the leeks are soft and then add in the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.  To a large pot, add in the leek and garlic mixture, the broccoli and chicken broth.  Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.  Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for 10-15 minutes or until broccoli is soft.  Add in the lemon juice, and check for seasonings.

Pour the entire mixture into a blender, making sure not to go over 3/4 full (as the hot soup will expand), and blend until smooth.  Serve.

Pan Fried Rosemary Steaks

Day 3-

Roast Chicken- Clean out the cavity of a whole chicken and pat dry both the inside and out.  Salt and pepper inside the cavity.  Then on the outside drizzle on some olive oil and rub around the skin.  Then salt and pepper the outside.  Roast in a 450 degree oven for about 50 minutes or until the breast meat reaches 160 degrees.  Let rest, loosely covered with aluminum foil, for 20 minutes, and serve.

*If you'd like to see more of my #3DinnersAWeek videos, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

PopSugar Must Have June 2014 Unboxing and Are Subscription Boxes Really Worth it?

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Growing up, there was nothing quite so exhilarating as opening the mailbox to discover stacks of shiny catalogs, magazines, and letters from friends and family.  You know, the kind on stationary... written with an actual pen.

But these days, with catalogs and magazines now easily found online.  And e-mails and e-cards saving mailing time... and stamps.  What used to be my excited skip to get the mail, has now turned to more of a reluctant walk, primarily finding bills, junk mail, and more bills.

And then came the subscription box.  And there was finally a little bit more joy in my mailbox.  And man, this last year especially, they've become popular.  Satisfying just about any hobby or passion from food, travel, beeauty, eco-friendly, knitting and crafts, to even treats and toys for your pet. 

But are they worth the hype... and the cost?

Read on to see what was in this month's very popular PopSugar box.  Plus my thoughts on the products and subscription boxes in general.

Emily Griffin's The One & Only- $28- This was a nice surprise, and something you don't often see in a subscription box.  I am a slow reader, so it will be a while until I can give you a review of the book.  But, with Summer here, there will be plenty of opportunities to read, especially when we head to the beach.  Plus, the story sounds good, as I'm always one who loves a good book surrounding sports, even though I'm not an actual sports person.

Lollies Basic Hair Ties- $8- Hair ties always come in handy, and what a cute design!  I especially love these since I often wear hair ponytail holders on my wrist before yoga class (so I don't forget).  And these are so fancy they could actually pass as bracelets.  I've worn these, and they are great, even for my fine hair.  Plus, the thickness and material is substantial enough to not pull or break my hair.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tuscan Chicken Meatballs, Artichokes and Spinach Skillet and a Day 2 Soup #HealthyLuxeMeals


If I could pick my ultimate favorite food, it would have to be artichokes.  Dipped in mayonnaise.

Yes, you read that right, mayo.  And yes, I should try to sound a bit more sophisticated and call it an aioli.  Although the two really are different, as an aioli is just garlic and olive oil- no egg. But when it comes down to it, I like mine simple.  Steamed and dipped in Hellman's mayo.  No fancy stuff needed to achieve pure artichoke bliss in my world.

But, here in the South, artichokes can be hard to come by, and they can be really expensive.  So, I finally gave in, and tried artichoke hearts out of the can.  And you know what?  They're delicious.  And I don't mean the marinated kind, but the ones packed in water that you can easily find at places like Target or Whole Foods.

Monday, June 9, 2014

{Video} 3 Healthy, Quick Dinners 6/9/14- Award Winning Chicken Lasagna Petals, Roast Hash, Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Mango Bacon Jam #3DinnersAWeek

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Leftovers are more like a luxury, in my home... meaning less time cooking, less money spent, and less dishes to do.

And this week, I bring you my Paula Deen Contest Winning Lasagna Petals using leftover poached chicken.  Then, my Roast Hash, which used all the leftover fruits and veggies in my fridge.  And finally, my Roast Pork Tenderloin, which I'll use the leftovers for stir-fries, sandwiches, and in salads this week.

Watch on to learn more about these go-to meals, perfect for busy weeknights.  And to learn more about 3 Dinners a Week, click here.


Monday, June 2, 2014

{Video} 3 Healthy, Quick Dinners- 6/2/14 Greek Baked Chicken, Parmesan Crusted Lamb Chops, Turkey Burgers and Candied Tomatoes #3DinnersAWeek

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This week, I bring you three of my simplest, most requested, and my own personal favorite dinners!

Each so full of flavor, and beautiful in color... and did I tell you they're healthy too?

Watch on to learn more about these go-to meals, perfect for busy weeknights.  And to learn more about 3 Dinners a Week, click here.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Crazy Good Caribbean Baked Wings #WRALSmartShopper

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I have a food confession.  I'm not a fan of messy food.

You know, like those cheese puffs that leave your fingers orange for days.  Those powdered doughnuts that made you wish you didn't wear black.  And those sloppy joes that are... well, sloppy.  Heck, I've even been known to eat BBQ ribs with a knife and fork.

And the worst culprit of all? Chicken wings. In which the sauce inevitable gets all over your napkin, water glass, and sleeves. Despite the three tiny towelettes that you used after wing two. Which now, are not only adding to the pile of sauced up napkins and gnawed away bones. But also prompting the waiter to rush over with a plastic bib, that he puts around your neck just in the nick of time to catch that big glop of sauce running down your chin. Someone, please get that man a raise.

So, in keeping things clean, this week I decided to make some wings that are just as full of flavor, healthier than the fried version, and you guessed it... not quite so saucy. And in honor of this kick-off-to summer weekend, I chose some of my favorite flavors that remind me of the islands… and the beach.

The grapefruit, which is an underutilized fruit in cooking, adds a sweet tang to balance out the richness of the coconut milk. The honey and garlic offer a savory sweetness that works perfectly with the heat of the hot sauce and the fresh burst of spiciness from the cinnamon, a common ingredient in Caribbean cooking. All for a finger-licking good feast, without all the mess.

So, what’s the secret to getting crispy wings, minus the fryer? Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and bake your wings on a rack. This allows the air to circulate below and crisp them up on all sides.

Crazy Good Caribbean Baked Wings

1 package chicken wings
1/4 c. canned unsweetened coconut milk
Juice from 1 red grapefruit
1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. honey
2 clove garlic, minced
5-6 shakes hot sauce (I like Cholulu)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large plastic bag add all the ingredients. Marinate the wings at least 6 hours, or overnight. Then preheat the oven to 350. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and top with a metal rack. Spray with non stick spray and place wings on top, skin side up.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, and then turn up the heat to 400 degrees. Continue baking for about 15-20 minutes or until wings are nicely browned (time will vary depending on thickness of wings).

Serves 4
$1.83 per serving

*Note: all costs are approximate due to regional sale prices, amounts needed just for this specific recipe, and ingredients on hand. This recipe was created to utilize sale ingredients listed for the current week in Raleigh, NC stores.

For more recipes, plus couponing tips and matchups, head on over to WRAL's SmartShopper Blog, where I'll be contributing recipes that are fun, flavorful and frugal.  And at just $1.83/serving, you're going to want to check these out.

Monday, May 26, 2014

{Video} 3 Healthy, Quick Dinners 5/26/14- Meatloaf, Turkey Asparagus Soup and Corn and Blueberry Chopped Salad #3DinnersAWeek

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This week was all about some fresh, healthy dishes... with a few retro favorites mixed in.

For more info about #3DinnersAWeek, click here.

And watch on to see how they all came together.


Friday, May 23, 2014

{Video} Chicken Fried Rice for One... and my dog O


It doesn't happen often, but when it does, the first things I think of are chick flicks, pink wine, and yes, I'd like extra cheese with that thick crust pizza, please.

I'm home alone tonight... well, except for my trusty sidekick.  Yes, this is Ocean, our white boxer.  And believe me, O doesn't mind, he just goes with the flow.  More attention.  More food.  And did someone say pizza?

But, as I picked up the phone, and reached to hit #5 on my speed dial, I started to talk myself out of it.  I'd been eyeing that new Chanel lipstick.  And there were 2 cookbooks I had in my Amazon cart that cost less than the price of that pizza.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

{Video} 3 Healthy, Quick Dinners 5/19/14- Balsamic Poached Chicken, Pork Picatta, Honey Thyme Salmon #3DinnersAWeek

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Not many people believe me when I tell them that grocery shopping is one of my passions.  

And that I cook dinners at least 6 days a week.  And that I'm up at 6:30am on the weekdays packing homemade lunches and whipping up smoothies to go.  And that we haven't been through a fast food line in over a year (well, my man did last week, and oh boy did he pay... but that story's for another day).

You see, I'm what they call an ultimate foodie.  I pretty much think, dream and live for planning, cooking... and photographing (lol!) our meals.  But for someone who doesn't have the passion, or the time, cooking at home can quickly become a daunting task.

So, I'm hoping to help get you back in the kitchen (at least) 3 days a week, cooking healthy, delicious, and frugal meals.  And I promise, they'll be quick on preparation... and clean up!  And who knows, you might even find some of the joys that I've found spending time in the kitchen.  Like more time with family.  A break from the computer (I think we all could use more of that).  And the thrill of seeing fresh, healthy ingredients come together to make a beautiful and nourishing dish.

Heck, you might even lose a few pounds.  Or feel more energized.

Each week at the beginning of the week, I'll upload a video and some recipes for you to get inspired by.  Some will be my recipes, and some will be new ones, that don't even have a "real" recipe... which goes to show that great food can be simple, and playful, even.

Watch on for some shopping, cooking and money-saving tips.

Day 1 Recipes:

Monday, May 12, 2014

Morning Glory Muffin and Fruit Jars (Gluten, Dairy, Egg, Nut, Soy-free) #WRALSmartShopper


“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"  "What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?  "I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.  Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.  ~A.A. Milne

If you haven't noticed, I, like Pooh, get very excited about food... especially breakfast. But just like any relationship, the way we look at our food and how we eat it, has to be nurtured and respected in order to make it work. There were times when I'd be in such a rush, I'd make unhealthy choices, like grabbing a super-sized bagel, slathered with cream cheese. Or end up making my way through the fast food drive-thru, answering, "well, sure, I'd like hash browns and a diet coke with that." And even some days when I skipped it altogether. And I ended up not only feeling less productive in the morning, but I then ate even more than I typically would, throughout the rest of the day, because I was suddenly “starving.” Low energy and hungry are not a good recipe for success.

But, these days, I do it a differently. Sure, it takes some planning, and yes, I might even get 10 minutes less sleep in the morning. But, now I cherish the mornings, with my cup of hot Irish Breakfast Tea, and a breakfast that includes real foods, like eggs or toast (yes, I eat carbs now), or like this one.

And, what could be cuter than food in jars? Or more convenient?

So, this week, I decided to create a recipe using all the wonderful fruits on sale, but I didn't stop there. I also saw lots of vegetables, like carrots and zucchini marked down. And I couldn't help but think of my beloved Morning Glory Muffins from my B&B days, but lightened up. Then I thought how good they'd be baked in jars with fresh fruit, allowing you to make a week's worth of breakfasts in one shot. So healthy, so simple to put together, and versatile enough to use whatever fruits or vegetables you have on hand.

Have leftover muffin mix? Roll it into balls and cook them up as breakfast cookies to snack on, on the go.

Morning Glory Muffin and Fruit Jars

For the muffins:

2 cups oats (I used organic, but for gluten-free, make sure the package notes it)
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 zucchini, grated
1/2 apple, grated
1 large banana, mashed
1/3 c. rice milk (I used organic Rice Dream)
2-4 tablespoons honey, depending on desired sweetness level (I used less when cooked in the jars, as the fruit added some sweetness. And more when they were cooked alone as a cookie)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the fruit:

2 cups cut up fruit for the base- I used peeled apples, pears and blueberries, but you could use anything that you like baked, including other berries and peaches when they come into season.


Combine all of the muffin ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Let sit for about 20 minutes to moisten the oats completely. Next, spray 6 small jelly jars with non-stick spray. Add in the cut up fruit and top with the muffin mix. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until fruit is soft (I check it with a sharp knife). Remove to a cooling rack and serve. Store in the refrigerator with the lid on, for up to 1 week.

Serves 6
Cost per serving: .64 cents

*Note: all costs are approximate due to regional sale prices, amounts needed just for this specific recipe, and ingredients on hand. This recipe was created to utilize sale ingredients listed for the current week in Raleigh, NC stores.

For more recipes, plus couponing tips and matchusp, head on over to WRAL's SmartShopper Blog, where I'll be contributing weekly recipes that are fun, flavorful and frugal.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

{Video} Earth Fare- Learn how I bought lobster, wine, orchids, specialty cheeses... and I still saved money

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While many grocery stores are taking perks away, like doubling coupons, some of the healthier grocery store chains are playing it smart and upping their savings... while increasing their target audience.

Good for our wallets. And even better for our health.

I've been going to Earth Fare for years, since I worked right down the street from their first location, in Asheville.  And I was impressed... but I fell under the same spell that most of you do, thinking they are just too expensive.  And maybe they were.  But times are changing.   And now, stores like Earth Fare, are offering discount cards, exclusive apps and e-mail specials, and awesome promotions like you'll see in the video. 

Watch on to see yesterday's luxury haul (I know, I even got lobster!)  And then read below for even more tips to help you save at Earth Fare.

5 Tips to Save you Money at Earth Fare:

1) Sign up for their e-mails here and their app here to get exclusive promotions.  Also text EAT to 71700 to get mobile notices, which often include exclusive deals, like free products with purchase.

2) Check their homepage and social media pages regularly to catch any one-day specials and new promotions.

3) Take advantage of their everyday low prices, plus their monthly sales.  And make sure and sign up for their Tomato Bank, which earns you points each time you punch in your phone number before check-out, or buy certain products (click here for the weekly "get list").  100 points equals $1 in savings.

4) Use their store coupons found here, plus any printed or cut out manufacturer coupons.  A few good couponing sites that do an Earth Fare match up are:

5) Let Earth Fare cook for you, and save money three nights a week.
Family Dinner Night is every Thursday, from 4-8pm, kids (yes, all your kids) eat free with the purchase of one $5 adult meal (WOW!!)
- Then on Sundays, from 1-3pm is Burgers for Bucks. $3 burgers and $1.50 sides.
- And also, their Real Meal Pot Roast Dinner for $9.99 on Tuesdays from 4:30-7:30pm.

*Note- I am not working with Earth Fare in any way.  All opinions are my own.  I simple love to shop there, and I am on a mission to help people learn that they can save money and still eat healthy, fresh foods.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

{Video} Chicken Grilled Cobb Salad with a Maple Dijon Dressing #healthyluxemeals


Sometimes, even I, don't feel like cooking... or washing what seems like never-ending piles of dishes that fill up my sink and line my counter, on a daily basis.

Which is why a hearty, healthy, salad for dinner is always a good option.  So quick to put together, thanks to a few pre-prepared ingredients like poached chicken, hard boiled eggs, and my new favorite salad dressing.  Items I now keep as staples in my fridge to make lunch and dinnertime much simpler.  And keep the temptations to drive through the take-out line, or call for delivery, at bay.

And with the addition of some creaminess from the avocado, crunchiness from the radish and green onion.  And don't forget that bit of salty bite from the bacon (just one slice is all you need!)... and you've got a quick and good-for-you salad that's on the table in less than 20.

Watch on... to learn how to put it all together, plus a few tips on saving money at Harris Teeter and Earth Fare.  Yes, you can eat organic produce on the cheap.

Chicken Grilled Cobb Salad with a Maple Dijon Dressing

For the salad:

1 chicken breast, poached and cut in cubes
1 green onion, chopped (white and green parts)
1/4 c. cilantro, rough chopped
1 radish, sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1 head romaine, cut in half lengthwise
2 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped (I microwave them on a plate)
1 avocado, sliced
Olive oil
Seasoning of Choice (I used Parisien Bonnes Herbes from Penzeys) to sprinkle over the chopped chicken
Salt and pepper to taste

To grill the lettuce, drizzle in a bit of olive oil into a grill pan.  Get hot over high heat, and turn down to med-high.  Add in each half of the lettuce, and grill until a bit charred and leaves start to soften.  Turn over and repeat on other side.

Remove to a plate and top with all other ingredients and dressing.

For the dressing:

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. organic maple syrup
1/2 c. Dijon mustard (I like Grey Poupon)
1/4 c. red onion, diced
1-1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Fresh cracked pepper to taste

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a mason jar.  Cover, and shake to combine.  Store in the refrigerator up to a week.

Serves 2

Monday, April 28, 2014

Grass-Fed Beef Patties, Caramelized Mushrooms and Blackberry Balsamic Glaze #WRALSmartShopper


It was the year 2000.  I decided to go back to school, later in life, to finally get my degree in Atmospheric Science...thanks to the influence of my dad, an Aerospace Engineer.  Well, that, and the fact that I secretly dreamed of being on The Weather Channel, some day.  

But that dream quickly changed a few weeks in, after I wrote my first article for my news writing class. I was hooked. So hooked, that I wanted to eat, breath and live writing for the rest of my life. And my passion and persistence in learning the writing ropes paid off, eventually landing me the biggest story of the semester. The cover story on Earth Day, for our school newspaper... which, by the way, ended up being a big, fat, flop. OK, so it wasn't bad, or poorly written. It was just dull.

I haven't thought of Earth Day much since, but that article still weighs in the back of my mind. What went wrong? And how did I, along with my Professors, get stuck under the idealistic spell that one article could really change the world? Was I simply thinking too big?

So, our 44th official Earth Day was this week, and it was celebrated by a billion people all over the world, including me. And while I didn't do anything so amazing as to "stop the presses," I do hope that I at least planted a few seeds. I tried to increase awareness that buying organic and natural foods, really can fit into your budget, with my Harris Teeter Super Doubles Challenge. And, thanks to sales at three stores this week, I could bring you a delicious and cost-effective recipe featuring grass-fed beef.

If you haven't tried grass-fed beef, you should. I'll spare you the details on how it helps the environment, while being healthier for you (since you can easily do a search for yourself). And I'll just focus on the taste. Oh, the taste. It's the most flavorful beef I've ever had, while still being lean... not to mention almost no shrinkage when it's cooked.

And when topped with melted cheese, caramelized mushrooms, and the sweet and tart drizzle of the blackberry glaze, you're in for a treat. A $2.13 per serving baby-step-in-honor-of-Earth-Day, treat.

Grass-fed Beef Patties, Caramelized Mushrooms and Blackberry Balsamic Glaze

1 lb. grass-fed beef
1 package sliced mushrooms
4 oz. blackberries
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. honey
4 slices white cheese
Olive oil
Seasonings of Choice (I used Parisien Bonnes Herbes from Penzeys, but other good options would be dried thyme or basil)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Sea salt

Form 4 patties from the ground beef, salt and pepper them, and pan fry in a greased skillet over high heat until browned. Then turn down heat to med-low to cook through, making sure to not overcook, as this beef is very lean. In the last few minutes, add a slice of cheese to melt.

In the meantime, heat up olive oil in a second skillet and add in the sliced mushrooms. Cook over medium-high heat until the mushrooms start to soften and brown, and then turn the heat down to low. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and seasonings of choice (I used Parisien), and cook over for about 25 minutes, or until the mushrooms are caramelized.

While the mushrooms are cooking, start the glaze. In a heavy saucepan, add in the blackberries, balsamic vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes and a few grinds of pepper. Stir, and then bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, making sure to watch for boil-overs, and allow to reduce to half, smashing the blackberries as they soften, and stirring as needed. Once reduced, set aside.

To assemble, top the burger with mushrooms, and then drizzle with the blackberry glaze.

Serves: 4
Cost per serving: $2.13

*Note: all costs are approximate due to regional sale prices, amounts needed just for this specific recipe, and ingredients on hand. This recipe was created to utilize sale ingredients listed for the current week in Raleigh, NC stores.

For more recipes, plus couponing tips and matchups, head on over to WRAL's SmartShopper Blog, where I'll be contributing weekly recipes that are fun, flavorful and frugal.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

{Video} Harris Teeter Organic and Natural Food Challenge- Super Doubles 4/23/14

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This week I decided to mix it up a bit, and see how well I could do at Harris Teeter's Super Doubles buying only organic and natural products, plus personal care/dog items.

So how did I do?  Watch on... (and please excuse the lighting, I'm still trying to figure out my new camera)

And yes.  You absolutely can eat organic and healthy products on a budget!

And for a breakdown on Day 1 coupons, head over the WRAL's SmartShopper blog, where my trip was featured.  The rest of the coupons used from Day 2 were mainly found on company facebook pages,, www.commonkindness, and the Sunday circulars.

(Some of the products mentioned: Seeds of Change, Rice Dream, Wasa, Uncle Sam, Organic Valley, Sambozan, Van's, Tom's of Maine, Green & Black's, Tasty Bite, Seventh Generation, Alexia, Fresh Express, Fillipo Berrio)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Green Beans with Balsamic Onions, Bacon and Goat Cheese #WRALSmartShopper


I'll admit, I've felt a bit sorry for the side dish.  Always, the supporter, never the star.  

I'll admit, I've felt a bit sorry for the side dish. Always, the supporter, never the star. But times are changing, and more and more people are ditching the idea that meat has to take up the majority of the dinner plate. Not just for health reasons, but also to help save money. Now, don't get me wrong... this side dish nicely compliments ham, chicken and especially steak. But, some days, I simply like a big serving of this green loveliness on a plate... for dinner, or lunch. And in this case, the side dish takes center stage.

I created this green bean dish years ago, and it's still a favorite. Simple to make, any time of the year. This dish offers all the right elements... crispness from the bacon, a balsamic sweetness from the red onions, and a creaminess as the goat cheese starts to melt its way in. A perfect way to get you or your kids to "eat your veggies." And the best part? This week, just about all of the ingredients were on sale, including Boar's Head Bacon. Which, in my opinion, is a star all on its own.

This dish is delicious warm, but I often enjoy it cold the next day, as well. And at just .63 cents a serving as a side dish, or just $1.26 as a main dish, these green beans deserve a standing ovation.

Green Beans with Balsamic Onions, Bacon and Goat Cheese

1 lb. green beans
4 slices bacon
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
Olive oil

For the onions: Spread out the cut up onions in a glass dish (I use a pie pan) sprayed with non-stick spray. Pour over the balsamic vinegar and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Salt, to taste, and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, or until the onions are caramelized. Set aside.

For the beans: Wash and trim the beans. Then blanch them in salted, boiling water for 4 minutes, until crisp tender. Drain them in a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking process and retain the green color.

While the beans are cooking, cook the bacon (I microwave mine) until crisp. And once cool, cut into pieces. Then, in a large bowl, add the beans, the balsamic onions and the bacon and mix. Salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle the goat cheese over all. Serve.

Serves 6
Cost per serving: .63 cents

*Note: all costs are approximate due to regional sale prices, amounts needed just for this specific recipe, and ingredients on hand. This recipe was created to utilize sale ingredients listed for the current week in Raleigh, NC stores.

For more recipes, plus couponing tips and matchups, head on over to WRAL's SmartShopper Blog, where I'll be contributing weekly recipes that are fun, flavorful, and frugal.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

{Video} CVS Haul- Saved 89% (Revlon Parfumerie, Almay, Colagate and More!)

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A mini-haul at CVS today... couldn't resist sharing!
(so excited about these nail polishes)

Here's a quick video with a few tips for how to make the most of your CVS shopping trips.

Monday, April 14, 2014

BBQ Chicken Meatball Strombolis #WRALSmartShopper


Sometimes food is so pretty, and so delicious, that it simply speaks for itself.  Which is the case with this stromboli.  The ultimate in ooey, gooey, cheesy comfort food... kicked up a bit, with some fun new flavors.

I'd never made a stromboli, let alone even tasted one. But, I love pizza. And I love calzones. And how much different could a stromboli be, anyways? Not much, except that it's long log-like shape is often braided, which ranks high in my book, for presentation. And it's great name... appealing to movie buffs, like me, since it was named after the 1949 movie Stromboli, starring Ingrid Bergman.

So, I set out to create the perfect stromboli, using some of my favorite ingredients like ground chicken, BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, corn, and cilantro. And thanks to this week's sale ingredients I was able to get pizza dough for a dollar, and a tomato and green onions for less than that. And the rest, I found in my freezer, fridge and pantry from past sales. A good reminder to stock up when you see sale item that you use regularly, making meals even more cost-effective in the future.

BBQ Chicken Meatball Strombolis

1 pizza dough ball
1 pound ground chicken
1/2 large onion, sliced
3/4 c. barbecue sauce
1 c. frozen corn, defrosted
1/4 c. cilantro, rough chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 tomato, sliced thin
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

First, roll the ground chicken (that has been salted) into small meatballs. Fry in a skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat until just cooked through, browning on all sides. Set aside in a bowl, and when cool, mix in the BBQ sauce to coat. Then to the skillet add the sliced onion and more oil as needed. Cook on medium-high heat until translucent, then turn down the heat to low and cook until caramelized, for about 10-15 minutes, adding salt to taste.

While the onions are cooking, cut the dough ball in half and on a floured surface, roll and stretch out the dough into two long ovals. Place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non stick spray.

To each stromboli, layer on the meatballs (adding extra sauce on the bottom if desired). Top with the cheese, corn, cilantro and green onions- keeping all the ingredients in a line down the center. Then fold over the ends of the dough to seal, and next cut strips about 1 inch deep on the diagonal, down each side of the dough. Alternating from the right to the left, place the strips of dough over the center to cover the filling and create a braid- making sure not to allow too large of gaps in between the strips. Then top with tomato slices, and more corn and green onions, if desired and salt and pepper. Spray with some olive oil spray, to add a nice shine. And bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough is cooked through, especially checking the top center.

Makes 2 Strombolis and serves 4

$1.86 per serving

*Note: all costs are approximate due to regional sale prices, amounts needed just for this specific recipe, and ingredients on hand. This recipe was created to utilize sale ingredients listed for the current week in Raleigh, NC stores.

For more recipes, couponing tips and matchups, head on over to WRAL's SmartShopper Blog, where I'll be contributing weekly recipes that are fun, flavorful and frugal.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mango Kuchen- a German Breakfast Cake #WRALSmartShopper


If you're like me, you probably have one or two sets of dishes that you got for a wedding present, or picked up along the way for... you know, those special occasions.

But then, when it came around to those special occasions, you were either too worried they'd get chipped, or just too lazy to use them.  Opting for your dishwasher-safe dishes over the thought of hand washing a stack of the good china.  So, they sat.  And got dusty.  And sat some more.  Until almost fifteen years later, you wondered where the time went... and if those dishes were even your style, anymore.

It's time to dust off your dishes. And not only bring out those special occasion dishes, but also experiment with new and fun dishes, even if it's just dinner plates for two. Stores like World Market, Pier 1, TJ Maxx and Marshalls, often have great quality dishes for less- especially if you check the markdown section. And what better way to show off your culinary works of art then by plating them on… anything but a plain, old, boring white dish.
So, this week, as I looked down the sale list, I knew just the right breakfast treat for just the right dish. A treat that came from my Bed and Breakfast days, using ingredients that are probably already in your pantry and fridge, and named after the German word for cake. And in this case I switched out the traditional peaches for mangoes- since they were on sale.
Simple to make. Beautiful to look at. And at just 33 cents a serving, boy does this kuchen take the cake. Even without a pretty plate.

Mango Breakfast Kuchen
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. + 1-1/2 Tblsp. sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 mango, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a springform pan (you can also use a 9x9 glass baking dish) with non stick spray and set aside. In a bowl, add the butter, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, egg, flour, baking powder and salt. Cut together with a pastry cutter or a fork. Then stir gently to combine.
Pour into the greased pan, spreading to the sides with your fingers (I dampen them a bit with cold water to help the batter not to stick). Arrange the sliced mango over the batter. Then mix together the remaining 1-1/2 Tblsp. sugar and ½ tsp. cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of all.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and the center is set.
Serves 6
.33 cents per serving
*Note: all costs are approximate due to regional sale prices, amounts needed just for this specific recipe, and ingredients on hand. This recipe was created to utilize sale ingredients listed for the current week in Raleigh, NC stores.

For more recipes, plus couponing tips and matchups, head on over to WRAL's SmartShopper Blog, where I'll be contributing weekly recipes that are fun, flavorful and frugal.  And at just .33 cents/serving, you're going to want to check this out.