Monday, April 28, 2014

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

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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
Pepper

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.mambosprouts.com, www.commonkindness, www.coupons.com 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

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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
Salt

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

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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

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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.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Chicken Sophie and the Big, Little Things in Life... like Soulmates

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After 26 years, you'd think you'd really know someone.

Until one day, you learn he's a genius gardener, after years of complaining you wish you had a green thumb.

And how the Dijon colored bath towel that he insisted on adding to the cart, while walking down the aisles of Home Goods last week, ended up added just the right pop of color to your bathroom.  

Or how after 26 years, he can barely remember to take his eye drops, bring his phone... and where did he leave his wallet?  But, he still remembers your favorite childhood book and surprises you with a tiny silver elephant on a chain for Valentine's Day.

Yes, there were times when I questioned his gifts of a Roomba over roses, and steak knives over a steak dinner out.  But looking back, I can see that he really knew my strengths, my weaknesses, my passions, and my desires... sometimes even more so, then I knew them myself.