Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Menu Plan Monday ~ January 2014 Menu

Hello, dear friends!  Happy New Year!  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are working on your resolutions for 2014! I know I am!  

Now that the crazy holiday spending has come to end, it's time to try to save some money (part of my resolutions) and "shop" my freezer and pantry for the majority of meals for the next month.  Pantry cooking may seem a little boring, but it doesn't have to be.  While I'll be using some of our usual tried and true recipes, I'll also be trying out some new frugal recipes I've found online.  

In an effort to keep my menu planning on track, I thought I'd blog a list of potential meals for the month and then hopefully recap each week.  

Let's start off with the New Year's Eve menu.  We're having some friends over for dinner but still, keeping our dinner menu pretty low-key.  I have a pork shoulder cooking in the crock pot as I type.  We'll shred that up for some sandwiches and serve with some homemade Baked Beans and Potato Salad.  Mmmm!  Dessert will be some fresh baked Gooey Butter Cookies and some S'mores.  Easy, frugal and so not boring!  

With an 8 lb pork shoulder and a small guest list, you can bet I'll be serving leftovers for New Year's Day!  I'll be spending most of the day snuggled on the couch watching the Mummer's Parade, so I really don't want to have to worry about preparing another meal.  

Here's what'll be cooking for the rest of the month:  

Easy Goulash.  I'll be subbing ground beef for the vegetarian protein crumbles.  Not only because this is a "cook from the pantry" month and we don't have the vegetarian crumbles on hand, but also because I really don't think Joe would be very fond of the crumbles.  He tolerates me cutting back on the meat I serve by using smaller amounts or by preparing meatless meals in general.  I just don't think he'd like the meat substitute very much.  Either way, I personally think this dish will be a hit.    

15 Bean Soup.  I made a big pot of delicious bean soup using leftover Christmas ham.  It was delicious and as always, there are plenty of leftovers.  Probably enough for two more dinners!  Probably my favorite thing about soup is how far it stretches...especially when trying to stick to a budget!  

Shredded Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches.  Last month, I made some Crock Pot Shredded Buffalo Chicken and froze the leftovers in smaller portions.  We have one pack left in the freezer and I will put it to use this month.  I'll most likely serve this with some Roasted Potatoes since I have about 7 lbs. of potatoes we picked up a few weeks ago when they were on sale.  We'll have to pick up buns for the sandwiches since I didn't plan enough ahead to have some buns in the freezer.  

Crock Pot Lentil Vegetable Soup.  You can't get much more frugal than lentil soup and homemade broth.  I really can't wait to try this recipe!  

Turkey Dinner.  I know that a lot of people are sick of turkey after Thanksgiving, but truthfully, I didn't feel like I got enough turkey this year!  Luckily, we planned ahead and picked up 2 super-cheap turkeys when they were on sale just before Thanksgiving.  We'll soak the smaller turkey in a soy sauce brine just like I did for a whole chicken a couple of months ago.  I serve a nice Sunday dinner with mashed potatoes and stuffing and then use the leftovers for other great meals!  

Sloppy Joes.  Super easy and close enough to junk food to hopefully curb the fast food cravings since I'm all about saving money this month!  Buns and bell peppers will need to be purchases for this dinner.  Oven fries or a quick cole slaw will be served on the side.  

Bacon, Bean and Butternut Squash Soup.  I have the beans and the squash, so hopefully someone will have a really great sale on bacon this month.  If not, I may just have to do without.  Please let there be a sale on bacon!  

Sweet Potato Soup.  We got a steal of a deal on a bag of sweet potatoes several weeks back.  I really need to get around to using them.  This soup will be a good start.  I have most, if not all, of the ingredients on hand.  

Turkey Pot Pies.  Over the summer, I picked up some small oven safe bowls that are perfect for individual pot pies.  While the pot pies are a bit on the small side for Joe, requiring him to have a second helping, they are the perfect for portion control for myself.  Pot Pies are comfort food for me and I could so easily just eat the entire pan instead of putting away the leftovers.  These individual pot pies help me to think twice before reaching for seconds, especially when served with a salad on the side!  

Navy Bean Soup.  I haven't decided exactly how I am going to prepare this yet.  I like my Bean Soup with cabbage added but can't seem to find the recipe I followed the last time I made it that way.  So, I'll either look for another or just totally wing it.  Of course, I'll be adding leftover Christmas ham. 

Open Face Hot Turkey Sandwiches.  Even have a meal you hated as a kid that you love now that you're all grown up?  This is one of those meals for me.  I think my issue was the soggy bread.  My guess is that my mom prepared my plate before calling me to the table for dinner, resulting in soggy bread.  Now as an adult, I make my own plate when I'm ready to sit down to eat.   

Venison Tenderloin, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Steamed Veggies.  Hoping for a mild day, so Joe can prepare the tenderloin on the grill.  

Venison Chili.  Any tenderloin left over will be diced and combined with some ground venison for a hearty chili.  Beans and vegetables will most likely be needed by the time I get around to serving this chili.  

Spaghetti with Crock Pot Meat Sauce.  It feels like forever since we've had spaghetti so this will be a nice change from all the soups and beans we'll be eating this month.  

Spaghetti Bread.  Perfect way to serve up those leftovers! 

Low-Calorie Crock Pot Vegetable Soup.  This is a perfect low-calorie and budget friendly soup.  Great on it's own or served with grilled cheese sandwiches or with a baked potato or salad on the side!  

If by the end of the month, we haven't used all of the sweet potatoes, I may just serve up a pot of Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili.  

So, there's an idea of what I'll be bringing to the table this month.  Meals are subject to change though, due to timing or mood.  Although, I will try to stick to this guideline as much as possible as I am determined to save money and use as much from our pantry, fridge and freezer as possible.  I also want to get better at avoiding food waste.  Too often I am guilty of forgetting leftovers in the bottom of the fridge until it's too late. I will be challenging myself to plan on using leftovers later in the week or freeze immediately to avoid it getting lost in the bottom of the fridge only to be forgotten and ultimately thrown away.  

What are you doing to cut back on your grocery budget this year?  Please share in the comment section!  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Marshmallow Candy Cane Fudge Truffles

Yesterday was one of those days that I really tried to do more than I could handle.  Well, lately, most days kind of go that way, but yesterday especially.

I knew I needed to do a test run on some two-ingredient fudge to decide if it was going to be added to my holiday baking list.  So, after lunch, I settled Grace down to watch a Christmas special and I whipped up a batch of fudge.

Of course, leave it to me to run into a jam while preparing such a simple recipe.  I needed to line to my dish with foil and I had just used up the last of our roll when I wrapped up the leftovers from lunch.  But I had already started to melt the chocolates, so there really wasn't any turning back.  I decided to just give it a go without lining the pan.  Figuring if it didn't come out of the pan nicely, it didn't really matter since it was just a test-run and really only Joe and I would see the ugly mess.  This was more of a trial to test out the taste and texture which, in the end, were perfect!

Since I was having a heck of a time cutting and serving pretty little squares of fudge from the dish, I decided to just scrape some out and roll into balls to form truffles!

What a perfectly delicious solution to my kitchen mishap!

Marshmallow Candy Cane Fudge Truffles 

  • 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips 
  • tub of chocolate frosting 
  • handful of mini marshmallows
  • crushed candy canes
  • Melt your chocolate either in the microwave or double boiler.  
  • Stir in marshmallows if using.  
  • Remove from heat and stir in the frosting. 
  • Spread the mixture into an 8x8 pan.  
  • Sprinkle the crushed candy cane over top and press slightly into the fudge.  
  • Allow to set in fridge for 1/2 an hour to an hour.  
  • Using a spoon, spatula, or ice cream scoop, scrape the fudge from the pan and roll into balls about an inch in size, then roll the balls into more crushed candy cane.   

Frugal Kids: Handmade Greeting Cards

Whether it's birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, or whatever special occasions you may celebrate, gift-giving can get really expensive.  Not only do we have the actual gift to worry about, we still have the added expense of gift wrap, tissue paper if needed, and the greeting card.  It all adds up and can really hurt the wallet!

Today, I share a crafty idea from my super-frugal cousin Wednesday.  Knowing her kids wanted to give out Christmas cards to their friends at school, she gathered up some craft supplies and allowed her kiddos to create handcrafted cards.  Perfectly customized to match the personalities of both the creator and the recipients!  All while repurposing those old Christmas cards you received in the mail last year and packed away with your Christmas decorations!

In addition to the saved cards, you'll also need scissors, school glue, glitter and whatever other embellishments your kiddo wants to add to their cards.  You'll also want to gather some card stock or construction paper.

Let your child start by choosing the greeting card he/she would like to repurpose and have them cut out the design from the front of the card.  Depending on the age of your child, you may need to help them with this step.

Once they have their design, they can choose coordinating card stock and fold in half to create the card form.  With some school glue (or glue dots), they can attach their greeting card design to the front of the card stock.

Then they can embellish however they wish!  As you can see, M chose to use purple glitter to customize her greeting card!  She traced the outline of the recycled card with some glue, then sprinkled with glitter.  She then shook off any excess glitter and allowed to dry.

Having fifteen or more cards to give out in class, this project can keep your kiddos happily occupied for quite a while.  And you get to save a trip to the store to pick up those expensive store-bought cards with whatever character brand is popular at the moment!  Not to mention those card packs never have enough to cover the whole class, so you end up having to buy multiple packs.  And if you have more than one kiddo giving cards to their classmates...look out!  It gets way to costly!

Oh, if you're not the type to hold onto cards from Christmas Past, you can still do this project with your kids on the cheap.  Just pick up a box of assorted Christmas Cards from the dollar store!  The kids can still cut them up to create their custom cards and you won't have to search your home office for envelopes!

This is not just limited to Christmas.  Once your kiddos reach school age, the invitations to birthday parties start rolling in!  Some friends have multiple parties on the same weekend!  Sometimes even the same day!  Adding up to several in the same month!  Again, the cost of birthday cards alone can really break the bank!  Start saving old greeting cards and let your kids create homemade cards to attach to their gift to the birthday kid!

I want to thank my cousin Wednesday for allowing me to share her idea and photos with y'all today!  xoxo

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wordless Wednesday ~ It's a Wonderful Life with Elf on the Shelf

Last year, I was telling Joe about Elf on the Shelf over dinner.  While I was familiar with the elves and their antics, I was sure Joe didn't know what I was talking about one bit!

The next day, he surprised me...um, I mean Grace...with her own Elf on the Shelf.  We took a couple of days trying to pick a name.  Grace wasn't liking any of the Christmas-y names we suggested.  One of us suggested Maggie and Grace agreed that it was the perfect name for our visitor!

Both this year and last, Maggie has been a tame little elf.  She doesn't get into all the trouble that I've heard some of the other elves get themselves into!  She simply perches high up on the shelves, curtain rods or the hanging light in our dining room.

I suspect she is worried that Grace won't obey the rule about the elves losing their Christmas magic if touched.  But I'm sure next year, Maggie will be feeling a little more comfortable at our house and start being mischievous like her buddies at the North Pole!

Frozen Hot Chocolate Snow Milk Shake

Yesterday, I told you about my friend Kristen's idea for making snow milkshakes or snow shakes as her kiddo calls them!

Feeling so chilly yesterday and just wanting to snuggle by the fire, I really hadn't planned on making them.  Instead I was content to just share her photo and a few links to other variations of the idea.

Last winter, Grace really had no interest in going out in the snow but today, she really wanted to get out there and play.  Grudgingly, I dragged myself away from the fireplace and bundled her up to go outside.  With Kristen's snow shakes fresh on my mind and seeing all of the perfectly clean, white snow outside I just had to run back in to grab a big bowl and spoon to scoop some of the fluffy white stuff for my own snow shake!

Once I was able to convince Grace to come back into the house and after pulling off all of those layers of clothes, I found myself pulling out our Magic Bullet blender to make myself a single-serve shake (Grace doesn't like ice cream or anything that resembles it.).

Here's how I made it:

Frozen Hot Chocolate Snow Milk Shake


  • I started by filling my individual blender mug with snow.  I packed it down to about one inch from the top to allow for the other ingredients.  
  • Next, I slowly poured in the milk.  I started with a 1/2 cup and added more later.  
  • I topped the milk off with the cocoa packet. 
  • Once all the ingredients were added, I blended.  This is where I added more milk and snow as needed.  Add more or less depending on the consistency you are looking for.  
  • Pour into a glass (or just use the blender mug) and top with whipped cream if you wish.  I used Peppermint flavored whipped cream!  Yum!  

I loved my shake!  I especially loved that it tasted like a high-calorie milk shake from the ice cream shop, but really wasn't too high in calories at all!  Depending on how much whipped cream you use, this could very well come in under 300 calories!  Much less than a shake from the popular fast food chain!  

I am linking this recipe to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:

Disclosure:   This post may contain affiliate links.  If you click on a product and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the sale.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Snow Day Milk Shakes

I cannot believe that it's not even officially winter yet and we've been hit with snow twice this week already! Snow that I was not expecting at all!  Guess that's what happens when Disney Jr is on the tv all day!

Facebook has been buzzing today with photos of the storm.  Pretty pictures of snow-covered trees.  Fun snap shots of the kiddos playing in the snow.  Some not-so-fun photos of traffic jams caused by the snow.

When I saw this picture posted by my friend Kristen, I just knew I had to share it with you today!  How fun is this?  Making milkshakes with snow!

This is something Kristen learned from her dad when she was a kid and she was excited to share this fun snowy treat with her son!

While Kristen didn't measure anything out, she did tell me she used snow, milk, sugar and a tiny amount of vanilla extract.  But how yummy would it be to use peppermint or coconut extract?  Or even some cocoa for a chocolaty snow shake?

Looking online, I found recipes using 2-3 cups of milk to a blender full of snow, along with 1/2 cup of sugar. Another recipe even used sweetened condensed milk and skipped the sugar!  And one calls for a shot of your favorite whiskey!  Mmm!  So maybe some coconut flavored rum instead of coconut extract?  Really, you are only limited by your imagination and what's available in your pantry...and maybe the amount of clean snow you have on your lawn!

Thanks for the inspiration, Kristen!  I think I'll be having lots of fun with this idea this winter!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Menu Plan Monday 2013 ~ Week of December 9th

Am I the only one having trouble with how quickly the days are passing by?  I just cannot believe that Christmas is just over two weeks away and that I am hardly prepared!  I've never been one of those people that shops for Christmas all through the year and is finished by the time Black Friday is over, but I'm usually much more prepared than I am this year!

We do have most of our Christmas decorations up.  Well, the trees are up and have lights.  Just today we finally managed to get some decorations on the tree in Grace's room.  This is the third year that Grace has had her own tree, but the first year that we're allowing it to be in her room.

So, this week I'll have some last minute online shopping to do, start my cookie dough, finish decorating along with the usual stuff that needs to get done around here!  Hurricane Gracie has really taken it's toll on the house this weekend, too, so there's a lot of cleaning to catch up on as well.

That being said, dinners are going to be easy around here this week!

It's 1:00am right now, so I am going to skip the links and photos for now and just share my quick menu plan for the week...I'll come back sometime on Monday (or maybe Tuesday) with some links and pictures!


Turkey 'n' Dumplings
This is actually leftovers from Sunday night's dinner!  
Hey, it's Monday!  
Might was well start off the week super-simple, right?  


Buffalo Chicken Pizza 
A couple of weeks ago,
I made a huge crock pot of Shredded Buffalo Chicken 
and froze the leftovers!  
I'll just thaw it and throw it on top of a pizza crust 
with some cheese and extra wing sauce!  


Tilapia, Baked Potatoes, Steamed Vegetables 
This is another easy meal.  
It's been a while since I prepared fish at home, 
but it's quick and easy and very delicious!  


Fend For Yourself Night 
I'm sure by this point in the week, 
there will be a variety of leftovers to choose from.  
If not, there's always oatmeal!  


Breakfast for Dinner
French Toast, Spam, Fruit Salad
I love cooking French Toast on my electric griddle!  
I can get all of it cooked in two batches!  
That ends up being enough for us for dinner.  
Leftovers will be put in the fridge for a quick breakfast 
before we head out to finish errands over the weekend.  


Taco Night
I crave fast food on the weekends, 
but don't really care to spend the extra money on takeout. 
Tacos are quick and easy and cost a lot less than pizza delivery!  


Burgers, Oven Fries, Salad 
Another fast food compromise!  
Burgers are my absolute favorite food lately
and thanks to an awesome grill pan 
that we purchased many years ago, 
I make decent burgers at home.  
They may not be as great as Red Robin, 
but they sure are much better than McD's!  
I don't get too fancy, though.  
Usually just lettuce, pickles and ketchup or BBQ Sauce.  

Now that you know what we're eating this week, share in the comments some of your quick dinner ideas!  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Minted ~ Holiday Card Collection, Party Decor, Photo Gifts and More!

I just recently found out about about a wonderful website!  Perfect for everything that I am into at the moment!

With photo gifts, typography art and customized party decorations being so hot right now, Minted is the perfect website to check all of those items off your list.  Whether it be for your holiday shopping needs, birthday party or just something to spruce up your walls.

Minted has recently launched their 2013 Holiday card collection and their selection is out of this world!  Keeping with today's trends but in a way that still remains classic and traditional.

You can create a beautiful custom Christmas cards using your own photos or if you're a bit behind (like me) in getting your family photos taken there's also a wonderful selection of greeting card designs to choose from.

Customizing the cards to your needs is very easy!  Not only can you choose between flat or folded cards, you can select the shape of your card and also personalize the inside and back of the card  as well!

If you are way ahead of the game and you've already sent out your Christmas cards this year, you should still check out Minted for any last minute gifts you still need to get or even just to treat yourself!

After checking out their Christmas cards, I decided to look around the rest of their website.

I'm so in love with their party decorations that now I am trying to figure out how to incorporate them into the theme of Grace's next birthday party!  Which reminds me, I still haven't told you about her 4th birthday....boy, I sure am behind!

Okay, back to Minted and their great stuff....

As far as party decor goes, Minted has thought of everything!  From the invitations,  to the photo backdrops, Minted has it all!  The hardest part will be deciding on a theme!

Since my mind is still in holiday mode, I am loving these photo back drops!  How great would they be for getting photos at a Christmas or New Years Party?  Also, I think the one with the skyscrapers could work great for a super hero party!  Don't you think?

Really, I could go on and on telling you about all the great items that Minted has available, but I won't!  But I will tell you to click on over and take a look for yourself!

Oh!  Wait!  I just have to show you one more thing!  This is probably my favorite thing on the entire website!

How great would this be to take all of the photos taken from a special year and put them in this collage?  Or this would be a wonderful first anniversary gift for a special bride and groom using favorite pictures from their special day!  Or even a perfect graduation gift using photos taken from kindergarten, school trips, dances and proms, all the way through graduation!

Disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post.  While I was compensated for this post, all opinions and thoughts are honest and my own.  I only recommend products or services that I would use personally and believe are a good fit for my readers.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Few Reasons You Should Join ibotta Now!

You still haven't joined ibotta?  I just want to share a few reasons on why you should!

Today, I transferred over $30 into my paypal account.  $30 that I can put toward some Christmas shopping!  Money I earned through ibotta making purchases in the stores I normally shop (including home improvement stores and pet supply stores)  for items I planned on buying anyway!

On Black Friday, I sent Joe out to Lowe's for a string of Christmas lights that they had on sale for $1.99 since I knew that ibotta had a $1 offer for Lowe's on a purchase of Christmas lights!  So, in the end that string of lights cost us just 99 cents!

That ibotta offer is no longer available, but there are so many other offers going on right now!

Are you planning a trip to the movies?  Right now, ibotta has offers for both Frozen or Hunger Games at select theaters!  Or, if you're not seeing one of those movies, you can also redeem an offer for purchases made at the concession stand!  (We all know how those movie snacks can add up, don't we?)

Also, there are a bunch of different cash out options when you are ready.  You can purchase gift cards for Starbucks, Redbox, iTunes, and even Regal movie theaters!

Sign up now and start earning cash back on your purchase and referrals!
It's so easy!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I Caught Santa! Review and Free Code

Wanna have a little fun with your kiddos this Christmas?

Thanks to iCaughtSanta.com you can catch Santa in the act right in your own home!  I don't know about your kids, but I know Grace will just flip over seeing a photo of Santa putting presents under our tree!  Or Rudolph in the driveway waiting for the big guy to finish his milk and cookies so they can move on to the next house on the list!

In just a few simple steps, you can add Santa (or Rudolph) to your photo and create a wonderful surprise for your child!

Believe me when I say it's simple!  I created our photo in just a few minutes and that was with a million distractions going on around me!  The most difficult part was choosing a photo.

Browsing through the different Santa poses, I decided to have Santa help decorate our tree!  But there are so many great poses...you can really play around with it and create something perfect for your photo! Maybe Santa eating cookies or napping on your couch before heading back to the North Pole?

To celebrate their 5 year anniversary, and to thank the tens of thousands of visitors and customers that have "caught Santa" using their website, iCaughtSanta.com is inviting you to catch Santa for FREE until December 10th, 2013!  All you have to do is use the code #SantaShare at the check out after you've created your I Caught Santa keepsake photo!

The best part?  You can use this code as many times as you want through December 10th!  Pretty awesome, huh?!

iCaughtSanta.com is also celebrating their milestone with a giveaway!  Go to their website  (link provided above) to find out more about the iCaughtSanta.com 2013 Customer Appreciation Contest via Rafflecopter (iPad Air + Amazon, Visa or Starbucks Giftcards) Over $1,500 in prizes!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Black Beans and Rice

Beans are a staple in our house and have been ever since I was a kid.  Often served as a side dish or added to a pot of chili, we love our beans!  Back then, pinto beans and kidney beans were the norm.

Not until I started cooking myself, did I start to try other varieties of beans.  Black beans are a  favorite of mine and I add them to a lot of different recipes.

Earlier in the week, I shared a recipe for Chipotle Black Bean & Rice Soup.  I adapted that recipe to make a heartier dish.

Quick and easy to make, this deliciously frugal meal was a hit!

Black Beans and Rice
     adapted from: Chipotle Black Bean & Rice Soup


  • 1/2 T olive oil 
  • 1 large onion 
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder 
  • 2 tsp. cumin 
  • 2 chipoltes packed in adobo, diced 
  • 14.5 oz Mexican style stewed tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock 
  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 tsp. adobo sauce 
  • 1/2 c. Minute Rice 
  • sour cream (optional) 
  • guacamole (optional) 
  • Cook onion and chipotles in a small amount of oil. 
  • When onion is just about tender, stir in the cumin and garlic powder.  
  • Continue to cook until onions are tender.
  • Pour in the chicken broth, tomatoes, water and adobo sauce. 
  • Stir in one can of the beans. 
  • In a bowl, mash the other can of beans with a fork, to desired consistency.  Add to soup.  
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  
  • Remove from heat, stir in the uncooked Minute Rice (if using).  
  • Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes.  
  • Serve hot.  Garnish with sour cream or guacamole if desired.  

  • This turned out a little soupy for the first night, which was just fine for us.  I didn't want to risk using less liquid since I knew it would absorb when I put the leftovers away.  
  • If you want to cook your rice separately, omit the water in this recipe and possibly decrease the broth a bit.  
  • While we both enjoyed this as a meatless meal, we both thought it would be wonderful with some smoked kielbasa added!  

Mmm!  So good!  This was a perfect meal after working outside in the chilly fall air!  I will be making this one again!  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kikkoman Juicy Bird Project

We love roast chicken, but sometimes it's a challenge for me to get just right.

I've tried whole chickens the oven but our too-old oven leaves it over-done in some spots while slightly pink in others.

I've also tried cooking the whole chicken in the crock pot.  I like this process as it makes it really easy to pick apart the leftovers for soups and stews since the meat is pretty much falling off the bone by the time it's finished cooking.  But Joe still says it seems dried out to him.

Every year since we've moved into our house, Joe has brined our Thanksgiving turkey, so I feel a bit dumb for not thinking of brining our chickens before roasting.

When I saw the Smiley360 Mission for the Kikkoman Juicy Bird Project, I just knew I had to apply!  I was thrilled when I was selected and so happy to share our experience with you all!

Originally, when I applied, I figured I'd put Joe to work and have him brine the chicken since the entire process was just a bit out of my comfort zone.  Timing didn't work out, so I had to suck it up and do it myself.  In the end, I realized that it wasn't such a big deal.  In fact, it was pretty easy!

In the past, when Joe would brine our turkey, he used a cooler to hold the brine and turkey.  He added ice to it as well and let it sit overnight in the cold garage.  For my chicken, I used the 5 gallon bucket that was included in my Smiley360 Mission Kit.

For the brine, I followed the recipe below for the most part.  I omitted the bay leaves simply because I forgot to add them.

Kikkoman Chicken Brine Recipe:


  • 2 cups Kikkoman Soy Sauce
  • 2 Gallons water
  • 1 1/2 Cups Kosher Salt
  • 8 Cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 4 dried bay leaves
  • 1/4 Cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 Cup brown sugar

After mixing the brine ingredients, I added my chicken and put the lid on the bucket.  I removed a shelf from my fridge and just set the whole thing in there overnight.  This was a rare occasion that I actually had enough room in my refrigerator.  In most cases, and especially the day before Thanksgiving, my fridge is stuffed and wouldn't allow for a 5 gal bucket.  If you don't have room in your fridge, watch this youtube video for a great tip for adding ice without diluting your brine mixture.

Once I was ready to prepare the chicken for dinner, I took the bucket from the fridge and removed the lid.  I reached in and pulled the chicken out of the liquid and placed it in a strainer in my sink.  I partially rinsed the chicken, then let it drain/air dry for a bit before placing it in the baking dish for cooking.

To cook, just roast in the oven following your favorite roast chicken recipe.  I cooked mine in a 425 degree oven for an hour and a half.  The result was my best home-cooked roast chicken ever!  Seriously, we just couldn't stop picking at it and hardly had any leftover!

I will never make another whole chicken without first allowing it to brine in the Kikkoman Chicken Brine!

For more information on product and usage instructions, click If you would like more information about Kikkoman products, including recipes and special promotions,


Thanks to Smiley360 that allowed me to take part in the Kikkoman Juicy Bird Project mission and for supplying the mission kit that included coupons for free product as well as the 5 gallon brine bucket.  While I received this mission kit free of charge, all opinions and thoughts are honest and my own.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chipotle Black Bean & Corn Soup

*Please take a moment to check out our current giveaways!

Over the years I've come to realize that people either love beans or hate beans.  There's no in between.  Our family lands in the love category.  When I invite people to my home for a meal, I need to remember to ask if everyone likes beans since I seem to add them to so many dishes!

Black bean soup is a favorite but it's one I don't prepare at home very often.  Until recently, that is!  We liked this recipe so much, I've made it twice already!  It's a frugal and pantry friendly recipe that is so quick and easy to prepare it's perfect for those nights you need to get something on the table quickly.

Chipotle Black Bean and Corn Soup
     adapted from Live Better America


  • 1 tsp. olive oil 
  • 1/2 large onion, diced 
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground cumin* 
  • 2 chipotle peppers from a can (in adobo), diced 
  • 1 can diced tomatoes 
  • 1 tsp. adobo sauce 
  • 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
  • 2 cans of black beans, rinsed/drained 
  • 1/2 cup corn (optional) 
  • In a soup pot or dutch oven, cook onion in hot oil.  
  • When the onion is starting to turn translucent, add the garlic powder, cumin and diced chipotles.
  • Continue cooking for another minute or two.  Stirring frequently.  
  • Stir in the tomatoes, adobo, and chicken broth.  
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  
  • In a bowl, mash 1/2 of the beans with a potato masher.  
  • Add all of the beans and the corn to the pot, stir and allow to cook for another 10-15 minutes or until heated through.  


  • I made this twice so far.  Once using regular ground cumin from the jar.  The second time I made this, I was out of cumin.  Rummaging in my pantry, I found a bottle of cumin seeds.  I measured out 2 tsp. and used my mortar and pestle to roughly grind them.  I found the flavor more intense when we used the seeds that I ground myself.  
  • The corn in this recipe is completely optional.  I like black bean and corn dip, so I decided to add just a little to my soup.  

I've linked this recipe to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Holiday Must-Have: Mighty Handle Product Review and Giveaway

*I received a free product in order to do a product review.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Oh my gosh!  I am so excited to tell y'all about this great product!  I've been wanting one for a while but never got around to ordering one for myself. So, I was really pleased when I was asked to do a review of the Mighty Handle!

Anyone that shops NEEDS this nifty gadget whether it's for our daily shopping routines or for the busier holiday shopping the Mighty Handle is a helpful tool to have on-hand!  Especially if you are out shopping with a baby or small child!

Shopping the mall  (or grocery store) was so much easier when Grace was still in a stroller or shopping cart.  One of us would carry the bags while the other pushed the stroller.  Now that Grace is bigger, she wants to walk the mall herself.  Which causes much more chaos.  Grace takes turns walking with each of us, causing us to trade off the bags quickly as we try to keep up with her!  This often means dropping a bag or tearing a handle, leaving whichever one of us that is left with the bags, to shuffle our purchases into other bags while the other is catching up with Grace.

Or, have you ever tried to carry too many, too heavy bags at once.  Pinching your fingers or forearms,  turning them purple and sore just so you wouldn't have to make another trip?  Ouch!

Mighty Handle makes it easy to carry more bags at one time.  Just loop the bags over the hooks and carry by the padded handle!  So easy...and no pinched fingers!

The anchor design of the Mighty Handle evenly distributes the weight of your purchases allowing you to carry up to 50 lbs. in one hand!

Yes, I know that re-usable tote bags would be an easy solution, but quite honestly, I'm just not that organized!  After getting Grace and myself ready for an outing, I barely remember to grab my coat while rushing out the door let alone a stack of reusable shopping bags!  That's why Mighty Handle is so great! With today's bigger purse trends, it can easily fit into your purse so you have it whenever you need it!  After slipping the bags off of the Mighty Handle, I just put the handle right back into my purse ready for the next time!

For more information about Mighty Handle

Would you like to win your own Mighty Handle?  Entering to win is easy using the Rafflecopter entry form below! 

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Friday, November 15, 2013

ZonePerfect Greek Yogurt Nutrition Bars Product Review & Giveaway

*I received free product from Abbott foods in order to do this product review.  All opinions and thoughts are honest and my own.  

Working busy holiday hours in retail, I was always sure to keep an assortment of snack and meal bars in my bottom desk drawer for those days I just didn't have time to break for lunch.  They were great to keep in my purse, too for a quick breakfast on the bus on my way to work!  

So, I guess you can say that over the years I've eaten my fair share of nutrition bars.  Some good, some bad.  
I was so excited when the nice people from Abbott sent me some of their ZonePerfect Greek Yogurt nutrition bars to review!  
Earlier this year, Abbott added 3 new flavors to their ZonePerfect brand of nutrition bars ~ Greek Yogurt Chocolate, Greek Yogurt Raspberry & Greek Yogurt Vanilla Berry.  These Greek Yogurt coated bars are packed with 12 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber!  A perfect snack for those busy days when you just don't have the chance to take a break!

Although I am no longer working those crazy holiday hours in retail, my life as a mom keeps me just as busy...especially now, with the holidays approaching.

Earlier this week, Joe and I decided to get a jump on shopping for our Thanksgiving meal and hit a crowded new store that opened in our area.  Lots of people wandering around the new store trying to get a feel for where everything is located really made our quick trip take longer than we anticipated.  Plus, having Grace in tow always makes errands drag on longer than they should.

Thankfully, I packed Grace's go-bag with a couple of the ZonePerfect Greek Yogurt Chocolate Nutrition bars!  These were great!  Not only were they a delicious treat!  They also curbed our hunger and allowed us to finish our errands without spending a fortune on snacks not on our shopping list!

Ever go food shopping hungry?  Not a good idea!  I'll be sure to always keep a few of these ZonePerfect bars in my bag at all times!  And you should, too!

ZonePerfect Greek Yogurt Nutrition Bars are available in the nutrition aisle of many grocery stores, drug stores and other mass merchandise stores or can be purchased from their online store.

To find out more about ZonePerfect Greek Yogurt Nutrition Bars and other great Abbott products

You can also sign up to become a ZonePerfect VIP and receive exclusive news and special offers!  

Would you like to win your own stash of ZonePerfect Greek Yogurt Nutrition Bars to keep in your purse or go-bag to help keep you in your holiday shopping zone?  Just enter using the entry form below!

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ibotta App: Cash, Not Coupons

When we made the decision to upgrade to smart phones, one thing I was determined to do was find a way to earn money while using my smart phone.

I tried a few different apps since our upgrade this summer, but none of them seemed to be worth the hassle.  Just about a month ago, I joined ibotta and have been really pleased with program.

Ibotta is kind of like coupons without the hassle of clipping and organizing a bunch of coupons that I usually forget to take to the store with me anyway!  With ibotta, the discounts are all organized on my phone and the cash I earn after my purchases goes right into my paypal account!  (You can also choose your earnings in the form of Starbucks, redbox or iTunes gift cards!)

With bonuses for tasks and referrals, the potential to earn $$$ is limitless!  Just for signing up, ibotta is offering $10 in bonuses by redeeming 10 offers in the first two weeks!

Join ibotta today and start earning money on products you already purchase!

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