Wednesday, March 26, 2014

{Video} Harris Teeter Super Doubles March 2014- Spent $3.77, Saved $99.60

It's another Super Doubles Week at Harris Teeter... and I braved the crowds and saved a ton.  

Seriously, my best trip yet- getting products that I really wanted for just $3.77, including tax.  And saving just under $100.  Yes, you read that right.  A huge savings (watch more about it below).  And to get all the matchups for this week and more info on couponing, click HERE to go to my YouTube channel.  All of the details are under the "about" section.  And please leave a comment, if you'd like, letting me know what types of videos you'd enjoy seeing in the future!

So, the best part of today's trip?

I was able to find lots of healthy food..  Really... couponing is not just about junk food.  I found Rice Dream, which I love to pour over my oatmeal.  Albacore Tuna, packed in water, for lunches on the go.  Better-for-you soda... and tofu.  Yes, I will finally be trying tofu, folks (wish me luck!!)

Another day... another dollar saved.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Roasted Carrot, Smoked Sausage and Spinach Tortellini with a Gruyere Cream Sauce #WRALSmartShopper

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One of my favorite things about time spent in the kitchen is experimenting with common ingredients in different ways… especially taking an ordinary dish and turning it into something extraordinary.

Take the carrot.  An often overlooked vegetable, typically found as filler on a relish tray.  But there are so many other ways to use the cost-effective carrot.  Shred your peeled carrots on a cheese grater. and use in place of the cheese in tacos. You’ll still get all the color, with more freshness and nutrients, but far less calories and fat. And don’t forget about your potato peeler. Long peels of carrots add texture and sweetness to tuna fish and egg salad sandwiches, not to mention a bit of crunch.
And how about roasting carrots… and I don’t mean alongside your potatoes and that same old pot roast your Mother, and your Grandmother made. But, cut up in coins, drizzled with olive oil, fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary, and lightly salted. 

So this week, I gave roasting a try, and when I read through the list of ingredients on sale, including tortellini, I decided on a pasta dish. Talk about extraordinary. The saltiness from the sausage, the sweet from the carrots, the nice texture and color from the spinach, and the creaminess from the Gruyere cream sauce complimented each other perfectly, for one of my favorite pasta dishes yet.

Think Gruyere cheese is a budget-breaker? You can use Swiss cheese instead, but it won’t add the same richness or flavor. Instead, why not take advantage of store sales on specialty cheeses (this week through 3/25, Harris Teeter has all specialty cheeses 20% off, even those that are already on sale). I was able to get a nice size chunk for under $4. And since a little goes a long way with Gruyere, this chunk will last me months and will be used in many dishes including pasta, egg dishes and gratins.
And remember, if you don’t have cream on hand, evaporated milk is a good (and even more cost-effective) substitution.

Roasted Carrot, Smoked Sausage and Spinach Tortellini with a Gruyere Cream Sauce
1 package smoked sausage, cut into coins
5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
1 onion, cut into half moons
¼ stick of butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup cream
1/3 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 cups spinach
1 package refrigerated tortellini, which has been cooked and drained
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Seasonings as desired (I used a pinch each of Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning and Penzeys Mural of Flavor)

Place the cut up carrots, sausage and onion on a greased rimmed cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes until lightly browned and caramelized.

While those are roasting, cook and drain the pasta. Then make the sauce. Place the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When melted add in flour. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Then add in the cream, lemon juice, gruyere cheese, salt and pepper and desired seasonings (see above). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring constantly.

To the cream mixture, add the cooked tortellini and the roasted vegetables and sausage. Then add in the spinach to wilt and finally check for seasonings and add more salt or pepper if needed.

Serves 4
*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.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fifteen Fabulous Quiche Recipes and Spring Resolutions


Unlike the rest of the world, who at the start of the year, resolve to eat healthier, exercise or sleep more, and work less, and then some... I hold out until Spring.

The first day of Spring, that is.

It only makes sense.  You can actually feel... and see the changes.  And it's that time of year when I feel most moved.  And happy.  The moment when you open the sliding glass door and the newly warmed air surrounds you and then lures you out to soak in the sunshine.  And what could be more warming to the heart, then seeing bright pink and white buds sprouting from tree branches, and momma birds gathering food for their newly hatched babies.

Spring is when all the magic happens, and along with the magic comes even more motivation for growth.

So what are your Spring Resolutions?  This year, mine have more to do with turning back the clock, and revisiting some of the passions of my youth.  Like my love of movies, and how, when I was in college, I'd go to afternoon movies once a week- even if it was just me in the theater.  Or how much I enjoy fashion and makeup... especially tearing out an expensive look from a magazine, and finding that look for less at the mall.  Or playing the piano, and my attempt at singing (which is a poor one, at that).  Two of my all time favorite passions that I haven't made a part of my life in far too long (and no, I won't be auditioning for any musicals, any time soon).

And what's your favorite Spring dish?  Mine's quiche (and I must be up to at least 3,130 by now!)  And today I've asked some of the best of the best food bloggers to share their favorite quiche recipes in honor of Spring, new beginnings and Spring Resolutions.

These ladies are amazing, and so are their quiches.  Just look at them.  Each unique and stunning in their own right.  Traditional, crustless, mini, a paleo version, and even one called a pie, because Cathy at Noble Pig says, "It seems more manly that way," (love it!)  All using delicious, fresh ingredients to help make the start of the new season even more special.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Sausage Quiche  by The Kitchen is my Playground

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cilantro Lime Chicken Tostadas with Corn Salsa and my go-to marinade #WRALSmartShopper


If I had to pick just one type of food to eat for the rest of my life, what would it be?  

Mexican food.  

Maybe because it ranges from the not-so-healthy fried, cheesy and greasy… to the very healthy, using the freshest fruits, vegetables, chile peppers and herbs.  But it’s not just the flavors of Mexico that have stuck with me all these years, but also the memories.

It was 1980-something, and my best friend and I signed up for our first Missions trip, partly, because we wanted to make a difference.  And partly because we had crushes on two of the boys that had also signed up… and there’d be a shopping trip to Tijuana on the way back.

So, what does this have to do with today’s recipe? Well, in my mind, the very best food also evokes a feeling. And now, whenever I eat Mexican food, I remember teaching classes in the orphanage, and how I wished I could have taken sweet Ophelia home with me. Work, that didn’t really feel like work, building the house, where cardboard boxes once acted as walls. And drinking cokes, out of glass bottles, while we bargained in the Tijuana shops. The McDonalds back on our side of the border never knew what hit them… all 80 of us getting out of vans, dressed in sterling silver jewelry and multi-colored ponchos, ordering big macs with Spanish accents.
And while this recipe isn’t completely authentic, it is delicious, and simple, and utilizes many of the sale ingredients this week. Plus, it has two of my favorite things. My corn salsa, which compliments many recipes, and can be spiced up with the addition of jalapeno or Fresno chile peppers. And my go-to marinade, which I also use often on pork chops and even roasted shrimp.

Chicken Tostadas with Corn Salsa and my Go-To Marinade
For the Chicken and marinade:
1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
½ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 green onions, chopped
¼ c. cilantro, rough chopped
1 lime, juiced
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package frozen corn, defrosted
1/2 large red onion, finely diced
3 tblsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt, pepper to taste
4 flour tortillas
Cooking oil to fill pan a few inches

Place the chicken and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Then pour all into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes (stirring half way through to break up pieces), or until just cooked through, making sure not to overcook. Set aside.

For the Corn SalsaIn a mixing bowl, add all the ingredients together and let flavors meld in the refrigerator for an hour or so. Taste, and adjust seasonings if needed once cold.
For the tortillasPlace a few inches of oil in a skillet. Once the oil is hot, add in the flour tortillas, one at a time, and cook on each side until crisp and lightly browned. Set aside on cooling rack to drain.
To Assemble: On each tortilla, layer the cooked chicken and corn salsa. Then add any other ingredients you might like. I cut up a bit of romaine lettuce. And I mixed a bit of queso cheese (which is similar to goat cheese) with some lime juice and spices. You could also add cut up tomatoes, black beans or even roasted vegetables like zucchini or yellow squash.

*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.
Serves 4

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.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Boston Bibb, Cabbage and Yellow Squash Casserole #WRALSmartShopper


With sunnier days, there comes more substantial sides... with main dishes like soups, stews and pot roasts no longer taking center stage.

And each year when one of the first of its bounty, my beloved summer squash, comes down in price, and goes up in quality… I know that Spring is just around the corner.

So, this week I decided to create a new take on an old classic, with a little more flavor and a lot more pizazz.  I’ve been making the same squash casserole from an old Southern Living Magazine for years. And I will say that once you find perfection, you’d better not mess (much) with it.

Perfectly creamy and delicious, thanks to all that mayonnaise, cheese, and butter. Your typical squash casserole earns high marks in the tasty category, but when it comes to looks, it can fall flat. Yellow, blah, boring.
So, I decided to add some Boston bibb lettuce, also called butter lettuce, to not only spruce it up with interesting color and texture. But, to add in a few more vitamins and nutrients, to help… balance out all that butter.
And as I looked down the sale list and saw that cabbage was also listed, I thought I’d give it a shot in this dish. Adding a more complex flavor, and stretching your dollars even further, as cabbage is always a thrifty choice.
And besides, with St. Patrick ’s Day coming up in a week, this dish gives another side dish options to the same old corned beef and cabbage.

Boston Bibb, Cabbage and Yellow Squash Casserole

2 lb.s yellow squash, sliced
1/3 head cabbage, chopped into 1" chunks
4 Tblsp. butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 large eggs, beaten
1 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 c. mayonnaise
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. salt
Pepper, to taste
4-5 Boston Bibb lettuce leaves

Place squash and cabbage in a large skillet and cover with water. Bring to a boil and let cook 8-10 minutes or until just tender. Drain in a colander, making sure to get out all the water, and then pressing gently with paper towels to further dry.
Back to the same skillet (wipe out from the vegetable mixture), add in the butter and onion. Sauté over medium high heat for about five minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat and add in the squash and cabbage, cheese, eggs, mayonnaise, sugar, salt and dried mustard. Pour into a greased 11x7 casserole dish and set aside.
For the bibb lettuce, fill a medium pot half way with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling turn down to a gentle boil and add the leaves to quickly blanch them. After about 30 seconds, or once they are slightly softened (this will go very quick), remove with a spatula to help keep their shape and drain on a paper towel, making sure not to crowd them during the cooking process (you might need to do two batches). Pat dry and carefully lay over the squash casserole. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until set.
Serves 8
66 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, 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, March 7, 2014

Maple Acorn Squash with Thyme Roasted Sausage and Apples #healthyluxemeals

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Some days (OK, most days) I wish I had the metabolism of my teenage self.

Days when I could choose a fried chicken sandwich over a grilled chicken salad for lunch in between my Santa Barbara City College classes (yes, I'm surprised I was able to eat at all, seeing as I smelled like formaldehyde three days a week... darn you Anatomy class!)  A meatball sub from Rusty's Pizza over a veggie and hummus wrap.  That we'd take to the beach and eat up on the lifeguard stand, watching the waves crash under the moon.  And did I tell you that in the 7th grade, I practically lived on Hostess Cherry Pies?  Mom would let me get 50 cents out of her purse each morning for a snack... little did she know.

Now don't get me wrong.  I spent most of my life eating healthy, homemade food, thanks to a Mother who not only enjoyed cooking.  But also made the time each and every day for what I still think is one of the most important things in life.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mustang Sally Steak Sandwich with Mango Balsamic Bacon Jam #WRALSmartShopper


Oh, to be like Sally… is almost like saying, oh, to be young… and free, again.  

And in my mind, when I think of Sally in her mustang, I imagine windows rolled down, and long red curly hair blowing in the wind.  Making her way down the winding highway in search of new adventures, without a care in the world.

It was 1965 and this R&B song topped the charts. When I was young I used to think the mustang in the song was a wild horse. Well, almost… it was a car with a whole lot of horse power. And this song, like the “horse” represented speed and strength, and is now listed as one of the greatest songs of all time. Even the chorus became famous again in 1983, as we all sang “ride, Sally, ride,” for Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.
But, what does this have to do with a sandwich?
As I was looking down the list of sale items this week, I noticed all the makings a perfect sandwich… French rolls, steak, spinach, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. And then I was reminded of our conversation on the blog a few weeks ago about bacon jam. And I couldn't wait to try it… and make my own version using mangoes. And seriously… this bacon jam made the sandwich.

So, just like any other famously delicious sandwich, I chose to name it after someone famous... and I immediately thought Mustang Sally. This fictitious character made a big impact in our music, our society, and our taste in cars. And I can imagine her stopping off at a diner along the highway to grab a steak sandwich that looked something like this.
Frugal, fun, and a great way to stretch your steak to make it more affordable… without scrimping on a bit of flavor.
And Happy Birthday to the Ford Mustang, which turns 50 next month.

Mustang Sally Steak Sandwich with Mango Balsamic Bacon Jam
1 sirloin or strip steak
1 package sliced mushrooms
Spinach leaves, to taste
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 French rolls
5 slices bacon
½ red onion, sliced in thin half moons
1 mango, cut in small cubes
¼ c. brown sugar
1/8 c. balsamic vinegar
1/8 c. apple cider vinegar
½ c. water
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Seasoning for steak (I like Mural of Flavor from Penzeys or 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joes)
Olive oil
For the steak and mushrooms:
Heat olive oil in a large skillet until hot. Add in steak and mushrooms. Season all with salt, pepper and any additional seasoning you might like. Cook until steak is desired doneness and the mushrooms are caramelized. Set aside. Once cool, slice thin.
For the jam:
Cut the bacon into 1 inch strips and sauté in a large skillet until fat is rendered off and the bacon is browned. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon grease, and set aside for later use if desired. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon and set aside on paper towel lined plate to drain.
Back into the skillet, add the red onion slices and cook until caramelized, for about 10 minutes over low heat, salting, to taste, towards the end. Once done, add back in the bacon to the skillet, plus the mango, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, water, another sprinkling of salt and pepper, and fresh thyme. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until almost all the liquid is gone.
Once the jam is done, set aside and prepare for assembly. *At this point you can leave as is (I prefer the larger chunks), or you can put in the blender or food processor to combine further, and make more of a jam-like consistency.
To assemble the sandwich:
Cut the French rolls in half and top with mayonnaise, spinach leaves, sliced steak, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. Then add on the bacon jam and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sandwich is warmed through. Serve.
Serves 4
Cost per serving: $2.21
*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.
This recipe is also posted over at  WRAL's SmartShopper Blog. Head on over for great money-saving tips, coupon matchups, and a fun group of people!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My Winning Recipe for Paula Deen's Contest- Not Too Spicy Chicken Lasagna Petals with White Beans and Spinach


Imagine my surprise, as I saw this photo come across my Facebook feed early this week... from Paula Deen.

Excited.  Proud.  Honored... are just a few of the things I felt.  I won week 3- Amazing Chicken Appetizers.  And omgoodness, did I tell you it's signed by Paula Deen?!  I'm such a fan.

So, a few weeks ago, I noticed on Paula Deen's Facebook page that she was teaming up with Springer Mountain Farms (which by the way, I'm so impressed with how they raise their chickens... plus they're located in our Blue Ridge Mountains) for a four week contest.  Each week was based on a different theme using chicken.  And the next week was appetizers... I couldn't wait to come up with a (hopefully) winning dish, and got to work quick... cooking and photographing.

I wanted to create something that was simple enough that just about anyone could cook it, but special enough that you could serve it for any occasion.

These Not Too Spicy Chicken Lasagna Petals with White Beans and Spinach use many of the ingredients found in your pantry, plus chicken.  Quick to prepare, these delicious appetizers, these use won ton wrappers instead of lasagna noodles, a huge time-saver in my book... plus far less dishes.  Then, mix in a freshness from the spinach and tomatoes, a touch of heat from the creole seasonings, and a unique blend of textures with the addition of chicken and white beans...and yes, I believe this dish is a hit.

I hope you enjoy them as much as did in my home.

Not Too Spicy Chicken Lasagna Petals with White Beans and Spinach
½ onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
1 (15-oz.) can drained white beans
2 (15-oz.) cans petite cut tomatoes, drained
2 cups fresh spinach
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon fresh nutmeg, grated
¼ teaspoon creole seasoning
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
24 wonton wrappers
1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (or 3/4 c. parmesan- which is also fantastic!)
In a large sauté pan, add olive oil and chopped onions and sauté until translucent and slightly caramelized.  Add in the chicken, beans, tomatoes, chicken broth, and spices.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat.  Remove bay leaves and add in spinach.  Simmer for about 10 minutes to wilt spinach.  Remove from heat.
Next preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray muffin pan with non-stick spray and set aside.  Take a small drinking glass and place on a stack of 6 wonton wrappers.  Cut around the glass to create circles.  Continue with the rest of the wonton wrappers until all are cut into circles.
Press one wrapper in each hole of the muffin pan.  Top all 12 with half of the chicken mixture (make sure to use a slotted spoon to not allow too much liquid in), and then half of the cheese.  Then repeat the layers with the rest of the 12 wonton wrappers, chicken mixture and the rest of the cheese.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until browned on top.  Serves 4.

And head on over HERE (to Paula's site) to see what she thought of this recipe, plus other winning recipes!