Monday, March 19, 2012

I'm in!: Spring Cleaning Challenge

As of today, March 19, 2012, I'm in with Amy's Finer Things and others to participate in the Spring Cleaning Challenge. Tomorrow, the first day of Spring, each blogger will share spring cleaning insights and tips from one area of the home to make these projects easier. 
I'm excited! I hope I can do it. I'm not sure what's ahead, but I hope it works with my schedule. I don't got all day to be organizing toothpicks, you know?

Check pack to see if I actually complete it (AND MAKE ME COMPLETE IT)!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lincoln's Lunch: Tuesday Jan. 3

Back to school...back to school...
Snack provided by school.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

10 Things I've Learned About Making Cupcakes

  1. Cupcakes are WAY better than a cake -- it's the same thing, but no cutting or the ugliness that follows.
  2. Always, ALWAYS use cupcake papers.
  3. Fill the cupcake pan 3/4 full, not 2/3 full (Betty Crocker!). They poof up nicely.
  4. After they're filled, spray the whole thing lightly with cooking spray. This avoids the whole situation where you leave the edges, thus half the cupcake, back on the pan.
  5. Leave 1-2 spots empty in the pan and fill those half way with water while they bake. You'll get nice moist cupcakes! (Oh my.)
  6. Frost them using an icing bag, not a knife. They just look nicer.
  7. Transport them in their own special carrier. I have one that's got circles in it so you can place the cupcake right in there, and they don't shift while en route. If you don't use a special carrier you will no doubt have a few tumblers.
  8. You can eat one and not feel too bad or too deprived. They're single serving size!
  9. Cupcakes can be made for any occasion. They're not just for kids' parties!
  10. Everyone loves cupcakes (and the lady who baked them)!!

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

I use pumpkin pie spice all the time -- oatmeal, sweet potatoes and when a recipe calls for just cinnamon. The other day I ran out and it being a staple in my spice drawer (and with the pumpkin spicey holidays coming up), I put it on the grocery list for this week.

While working through the grocery list and crunching some numbers I sat there wishing there was some way I didn't need this $4+ for 1.12 oz spice. WHY OH WHY?

DING! (or duh if you want to be nasty about it) "I bet I can just make this from what I have on hand," I said to myself.

Never wanting to do anything by the seat of my pants, I looked up the recipe on one of my favorite baking sites,

There it was, and I DID have all the stuff to whip it up.

It took less than a minute and two dirty dishes (a teaspoon and a container). I was going to store it in the container I'd mixed it in, but...

DING! (no duh on this one since I though it was pretty genius) I put it back in the empty pumpkin pie spice container. It fit perfectly!

I encourage you to put this together this year instead of buying it premade. Even if you're "not much of a baker," I bet you have all the ingredients!

Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves

Mix them all together.

Makes about five tablespoons (or 1.12 oz.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The BEST Bread in the Universe

I can't believe I've never written about this bread before! It's become our "everyday bread," and I make it every Sunday.

To me, it's a wonderful concoction: half whole wheat flour for good, half white for tastes, minor amounts of sugar (honey and brown sugar), and I have everything on hand for this at all times without even trying.

I have a bread machine so I use the dough cycle, throw everything in to do it's business for about an hour and then bake it up in the oven for another 30 minutes.

I cut a big ol' honking piece when it's still warm and spread tons of butter on it to--uh--test it. Yeah. I let this cool completely before slicing it the thickness I think it should be for sandwiches and such.

Below is the recipe with my changes:

  • 1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F) 
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • 2 teaspoons instant active dry yeas
  1. Put everything in the order above in the breadmachine. 
  2. Select the Dough cycle and press Start (See, I've cut out two or three steps using the bread machine!)
  3. Smoosh it all in a bread pan sprayed with Pam. Make sure it it spread out. I messed up a few times and didn't do this thinking it would filled the pan when it baked but it just got all misshaped.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. If loaf starts browning too soon, lightly lay a piece of foil on top of the loaf to prevent too much darkening.
  5. Remove bread from oven and allow to rest in pan for a few minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cover with a cloth.
Makes 1 loaf

Note: There is a recipe for a 100% whole wheat version on, but I haven't tried it yet.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Introducing my Recipe Binder

I've been thinking of doing this project for months (OK, maybe a year or two--so sad).

I get tons of magazines, emails, and a bunch of other things that contain recipes. Fall recipes, crock pot recipes, pie recipes, egg recipes, you know. I love to cook and bake, and I love finding and trying new recipes.

In an effort to be more organized--and to avoid continuing to add to the growing pile off messy loose pages on that shelf in the kitchen that's supposed to be nice and tidy with cookbooks--I finally made my recipe binder.

Your what?

My recipe binder!

It's just a binder with dividers that have folders on either side. I made a divider for each kind of food and one side holds recipes I'd like to try and ones that we enjoyed. This really helps with my meal planning and makes sure I don't lose ones that we really liked.

What I used:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dental Deals

I was super excited when I realized I could get Reach toothbrushes and floss at Giant Eagle for FREE! I was super worried none would be available when I got there on Saturday (since the deal started on Wednesday).

Luckily, they had as much available as I had coupons. Yes, I cleared the shelf, but not before asking the lady who came in the aisle as I was loading up if she was coming for the deal. She wasn't, but I would have offered to split it!

Reach Adult Toothbrushes
Sale = $1
Coupon = $1 off one
Final Price = FREE
Bought 6

Reach Batman Kids Toothbrushes

Sale = $1
Coupon = $1 off one
Final Price = FREE
Bought 6

Reach Floss
Sale = $1
Coupon = $1 off one
Final Price = FREE
Bought 11


Gwyneth Paltrow Gave me this Recipe

..through Self magazine. hehehe

I'd been wanting to make blueberry muffins ever since I found a bag of the frozen berries in the freezer after organizing it a few weeks ago.

While tending to something else I've been wanting to get done--making a binder full of favorite recipes and ones I'd like to try (info coming soon)--I came across the recipe Gwynie submitted to self: her mom's muffin recipe.

Now, there's noting really special about these. They takes like blueberry muffins. They were super simple and a bit more healthy with the tweaks I made. I assume these would work well for any berry muffins you wanted. Just sub in the berry you want in place of the blueberries.


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (you may need more milk if the batter is too stiff)
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat four
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed 
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (Sorry Gwyneth, I used frozen!)


  1. Heat oven to 375°.
  2. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. (Like always, mine turned out to make more--about 16)
  3. Whisk butter, eggs and milk in a bowl. 
  4. Combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in another bowl. 
  5. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients; fold in blueberries. 
  6. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups; sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp sugar. 
  7. Bake until muffins are golden brown and a knife comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
  8. Serve warm.

I fought the desire to add bananas, but I might do that another time. I also found a recipe for blueberry muffins that have cream cheese in the middle of them I'm going to try next (because I still have blueberries left. Damn you Sam's Club!)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

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This magazine is great for all levels of yogis and those interested in health and fitness.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Giant Eagle: July 16

Deals of the Day:
  • Emerald Breakfast to Go - Sale BOGO; Coupon, $1.50 off two, Each - $1
  • Luna Bars - Sale $1 each; Coupon, $1 off two; Each = $.50
  • Duncan Hines Cake Mix/Brownie Mix/Frosting - Sale, 4/$5; Coupon, Buy two Duncan Hines Products get a cake mix or brownie mix free, Each = $.83
  • Cascadian Farms Frozen Veggies - Sale, 4/$9; Coupon, $1 off; Each = $1.25

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Strawberry Freezer Jam


One word = YUM!!!!

Man, was this stuff good! Lincoln and I ate a whole jar the day I made it. I was so excited this turned out good. I found the jars and the freezer pectin at a local hardware store, Stanford on 286 in Plum.

This weekend, I'm going to make Peach Freezer Jam. I can't wait!

The recipe is on the pectin package (sorry, I can't remember it). You can use fresh or frozen, unsweetened fruit, but, come on, it's summer! Use the real thing!
Yummy strawberries
nom nom nom

Red Beet Pancakes

I went back to the Monroeville Lion's Farmer's Market--earlier this time--an ran into Adam's sister, Nicole. We were talking and wondering around and she mentioned something about beets.


I remembered the recipe I'd been starting at for a while for Red Beet Pancakes from Who doesn't love pancakes? Who doesn't love beets? Ummm, I'm sure a lot of people don't like beets, but anyway...

I got my beets! I got two bunches because I wasn't sure how many I needed (I didn't have the recipe on me), but ended up only using one bunch.

I made them extra special by cooking them in my Xpress Redi Set Go with the heart-shaped pan and calling them--wait for it---Heartbeet Pancakes.

Ingredients (made about 20 little hearts)
  • 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
  • 3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3 Tbsp Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 Medium Beets, roasted and pureed (about 3/4 Cups) - I had five little ones that made about 3/4 cup
  • 1 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 1/3 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla extract
  • Accompaniments: honey, maple syrup, butter, raspberry sauce
  1. Sift the first 5 ingredients into a bowl.
  2. Place the rest of the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine.
  3. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until just combined (you don’t want to overstir the batter — some lumps are good).
  4. Drop about 2 tbsp of the pancake mixture onto a greased griddle or pan over medium heat and cook for 3 minutes on each side. (I put mine in the Xpress Redi Set Go for five minutes.)
  5. Serve with desired accompaniments.

Roasted Beets
Beet batter


Heartbeet Pancakes

Lincoln's Lunch: Friday July 8

  • PB, J and Banana Wrap (made with the strawberry freezer jam)
  • Sugar Snap Peas with dip
  • Cinnamon Apple Sauce
  • Milk/Water
Snacks provided by school.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pretty Berries

Community: June 27

Before Coupons = $5, After Coupons = $3
  • Four bottles of Kraft Dressing - Sale 4/$5; Coupon, $1 off 2; Each = $.75 SCORE!
Quick trip in for this deal and I spotted another for Triscuit cracker, but my other coupons were in the car. I may go back tomorrow.

Shop N Save: June 27

Before Coupons = $123; After Coupons = $92
  • Four bottles of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce - Sale, $1; Coupon, $1 off 2; Each  = $.50 YUM!
  • Two boxes Life Cereal - Sale, 2/$5; Coupon, $.75 off 1 (doubled); Each = $1
  • Rice Krispies - Sale, 5/$10; Coupon, $1 off 2; Each = $1.50 We like Rice Krispie Treats!!
  • Four DiGiorno Small Pizza - Sale, 2/$5; Coupon, $1 off 1; Each = $1.50 These are great for a quick lunch of dinner for yourself paired with a salad, of course!
  • Two Pineapples - Sale, $2.99; Coupon (yes, coupon), $1.25 off 2; Each = $2.37
  • Six boxes Pop Tarts - Sale 3/$5; Coupon $1 off 3; Each = $1.33
  • Four Helluva Good Cheese - Sale 2/$4; Coupon, $1 off 2; Each = $1.50 I FINALLY remember to buy blocks of cheese instead of sticks. Thanks to a friend at work who gave me an extra coupon.
  • Two containers Folgers Coffee - Sale $7.99; Coupon, $1 off 2; Each = $7.49
  • One Cantaloupe - Sale $1
  • Two containers Yoplait Greek Yogurt - Sale, 5/$5; Coupon, $1 off 2; Each = $.50
  • Two Betty Crocker Cake Mixes and Two Betty Crocker Frostings - Sale, $1.69 and $1.99; Coupon, $.75 off when you buy one cake mix and one frosting (doubled); Each = $1.09
  • Four packages berries - Sale BOGO; Each = about $1.99 each
  • 10 Power Bars - Sale, 10/$10; Coupon, BOGO; Each = $.50
Spent a lot of money, but got a lot of stuff! It's been a while since I did one of these shopping trips, but it as a good time.

I learned that the Shop N Save in my neighborhood only takes three printed coupons (which the cashier studied intently), and that the cashier, who must have just started, thinks that paper bags aren't technically reusable bags so she didn't give me my $.05 credit I should have gotten on the paper bag I brought. I was so tired and figured it wouldn't be worth $.05 to convince her, I just let it go. I did get $.25 credit on the five bags she felt fit the description.

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies Part Deux

If you remember, I prepared then froze the dough for these cookies last week.

After our first loaf of whole-wheat banana chocolate chip bread was gone (I froze the other loaf), I HAD to make these.

I let them thaw for 30 minutes on a cookie sheet and then baked them at 350 for about 12 minutes.

They were good, but did require the chocolate chips I swapped for the peanut butter swirl morsels--next time...

Cookie checker (and tester)

Lincoln's Lunch: Monday, June 27

  • TLC Cereal Bar - Vanilla Cherry
  • Blueberries and Bananas
  • Milk
  • Spanikopita
  • Sweet Potato Fries and Ketchup
  • Pears
  • Milk/Water
Snacks provided by school.

Lincoln's Lunch: Friday, June 24

  • Applegate Farms Organic Turkey
  • Crackers
  • Cheese
  • Pears
  • Milk/Water
Snack provided by school.

Lincoln's Lunch: Thursday, June 23

  • Pizza from Universal Pizza
  • Extra Sauce
  • Sweet Potato Fries and Ketchup
  • Pears
  • Milk/Water
Snacks provided by school.

Lincoln's Lunch: Wednesday June 22

  • Pizza from Universal Pizza
  • Extra Sauce
  • Mango 
  • Milk/Water
Snacks provided by school.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Dinner: Monday, June 19

    I finally got to try out that Asian BBQ Chicken recipe I've been staring at for weeks.
    Chicken thighs are recommended in this recipe and instead of chickening (no pun intended) out, I bought some. I waited until they were on sale ($1.39/lb) and bought two packages in case we liked the recipe.

    We liked it.

    The chicken was juicy and flavorful, and the Jasmine rice was the perfect starch for this. Have you ever had Jasmine rice? It's wonderful! Fluffy, fragrant, yummy--wonderful.

    The chicken thighs I bought weren't boneless or skinless, but I was able to easily pull off most of the skin (without gagging--ICK!).

    Linc only ate the rice and some of the baby corns in the veggie medley, which was pretty funny looking. He's not a meat fan.

    Meal Plan: June 19-25

    • Late lunch/early dinner at the Oakmont Car Show (HOT DOGS!!)
    • Asian BBQ Chicken (didn't get to eat this last week) with Jasmine rice and steamed Asian vegetable medly
    • Pizza from Universal Pizza this week (and most weeks) and Salad. Universal Pizza has a special called Beat the Clock on Tuesdays. Between 4 and 7 p.m., the time you call is the price you pay for a large cheese pizza! I call at 4 and get a $4 pizza! It's so good, too.
    • Some kind of pasta--not sure yet--and salad
    • Garlic Pork Loin and Wild Rice with Spinach and Tomatoes
    • Leftovers
    • Cookout on Saturday!
    • Baking: Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

    Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

    The beauts smelled amazing--before baking! I ended up not baking them because the Whole-Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Bread was in the oven (and we have a whole Ziploc bag of Greek cookies from a wedding this weekend). I just wanted to test out the whole making-cookies-and-freezing-the-dough thing. I'm trying to hold off baking them until one loaf of the bread or the Greek cookies are gone--whichever comes first.

    This recipe is again brought to you by (I just love her stuff!) with some tweaks (of course)! I'll let you know how they taste when I bake them.

    Makes about 40 cookies

    • 1 cup butter (softened)
    • 1/3 cup peanut butter
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 3/4 cup  sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 cups oats (rolled or quick oats)
    • 1 10-oz. package Nestle Toll House peanut butter swirled morsels (recipe called for chocolate chips, but these were sitting in front of me so I dumped them in.)
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (If baking now)
    2. Cream together first six ingredients. 
    3. Add flour, baking soda, salt and oats. Mix well. 
    4. Stir in morsels. 
    5. Roll into 1-1 1/2-inch balls. (I scooped them out with my little "ice cream" scooper. I don't do rolling cookies into balls for 40+ cookies. No way.)
    6. If baking now, place on greased cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes or until done. 
    OR (if freezing)
    1. Put on cookie sheet and freeze for 1-2 hours.
    2. Put frozen cookie dough balls into a plastic freezer bag and seal tightly. 
    3. When ready to bake, pull out the desired amount of balls and place on a greased cookie sheet for 30-45 minutes to thaw. 
    4. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until done.

    Waiting to go in the freezer

    Whole-Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

    I'm not a fan of chocolate chips in anything but chocolate chip cookies, but I decided to try out this bread recipe from  with a bunch of bananas on the brink of disgustingness. 

    Of course, I made a few tweaks and prepared it as follows. It's another good one!

    Makes 1 loaf (I made two "short" ones, and I'll freeze one)
    • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup applesauce (in place of oil)
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 5 ripe bananas, mashed (I used 5 instead of the recommended 3-4 because that's how many were going to go bad and Linc like bananas--the more bananas the better!)
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    • 3 Tablespoons milk
    • 1 cup chocolate chips
    • 2 Tablespoons flaxseed meal (I wanted to add this, but forgot so I sprinkled in to top before baking)
    1. Preheat oven to 350.
    2. Stir together dry ingredients. Beat together remaining ingredients.
    3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and blend until just combined. Sprinkle chocolate chips in and stir.
    4. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for one hour and 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.
    5. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.

    Before baking

    Piece for the tester (me!)

    Lincoln's Lunch: Tuesday, June 21

    You may have noticed, Linc doesn't get many (if any) veggies in his lunch. I can't get him to eat any vegetables except yams and squash. The doctor says it's OK as long as he's still eating his fruit, but I'd eventually like him to eat more veggies.

    How do you get your kid to eat veggies? Please don't suggest "hiding" them in other food. I refuse to do that. I do put them in for the heck of it sometimes, but I will not "trick" him into eating them. He's got to learn what they are!

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Lincoln's Lunch: Wednesday, June 15

    • Breakfast
    • Lunch
      • Pizza with extra sauce
      • Watermelon
      • Milk or Water
    • Snacks provided by school
    I'm not sure if Linc will eat the pizza. Weird, I know. For some reason he's been a little iffy with pizza. I know he likes pasta sauce so I'm hoping the extra sauce will make it more appealing.

    Baked Amish Oatmeal is My New Love

    I can't even explain to you how good this stuff is. With some tweaks, it's good for you, too. I altered the recipe originally printed on as follows...

    Servings: 6
    • 1/3 cup applesauce (I used apple apricot sauce because that's what I had. It doesn't taste any different than regualr applesauce)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
    • 3 cups oats (regular or quick)
    Prep Time: 10 mins
    Total Time: 55 mins

    1. Spray 1 1/2 quart baking dish with Pam and drop in eggs and beat well.
    2. Add brown sugar, baking powder, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Mix well, no lumps.
    3. Whisk in applesauce and milk, then add oats.
    4. Stir well.
    5. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 35-45 min, or until set in the middle.
    6. Serve hot with warm milk poured over. I stir in strawberry preserves this time of year. In th fall, I'll add apples, raisins and cranberries.
    Tonight I tripled the recipe and put two batches in a 2 1/2 quart dish and one batch in the 1 1/2 qt dish.
    I froze the single batch uncooked. I read it turns out good. We'll see.

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    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Dinner: Monday June 13

    Today I tried a new recipe--Chicken Pesto Sandwiches. They were really good!

    There was a lot of prep involves since the chicken hadn't completely defrosted and then I had to cook it before putting together the sandwiches. If I had everything ready or even just the chicken defrosted, it would have been a little easier. I also make the pesto, but that isn't too hard--and it's SO worth it!

    Other than that, the meal was easy to prepare. I found some Grands biscuits in the fridge, too, and made the same kind of thing with them but without the pesto and with cheddar cheese. I didn't have one of those, but Adam said it was good.

    Acompanying our "sandwiches," was baked Alexia sweet potato fries and sauteed zucchini and squash from the Farmers' Market. To prepare the veggies, I melted some butter in a wok and tossed in sliced (a little less than a quarter inch slices) zucchini and squash (with peels). When soft, I sprinkled a little Canadian/Montreal steak seasoning. It's Adam's recipe and very good.

    Unfortunately, all Linc ate were the fries. He went for the sandwich, but wasn't having it. He muct not have been in the mood for meat (that happens sometime).