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!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

In older posts, I've probably told y'all how I'm really not a fan of pork.  Sure, I eat ham and bacon, but even then I'm really picky about cuts and brands.  It drives my husband crazy.

When I worked full time, I would make pork tenderloin a couple times a month.  Even though it wasn't a favorite, the fact that it was so easy to prepare was enough to make me willing to just suck it up and eat it.  Although I no longer work outside of the home, I still make it a point to serve pork tenderloin since I know it's easy and that Joe enjoys it.

Over the summer, I was really pleased to come across a recipe for pork that I actually LOVE and have made several times since!  I even served it for company over the weekend and it was a huge hit!  Everyone went back for seconds!

The original recipe calls for the thicker pork loin, but I almost always have the thinner pork tenderloins in my freezer since we pick them up when they are on a BOGO sale!

Balsamic Pork Tenderloin 
     adapted from


  • 1 package pork tenderloin, plain 
  • 3.4 cup balsamic vinegar 
  • 1-3 Tbs. Montreal Seasoning 
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil 
  • Place pork in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. 
  • Combine marinade ingredients and pour over the pork.  
  • Close bag and allow to marinate in the fridge overnight.  
  • When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
  • Transfer the pork and marinade into a baking dish. 
  • Place in oven and cook about 1 hour.  
  • Remove from oven and allow meat to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.  
  • Adjust the amount of Montreal Seasoning to your liking.  We like our food peppery, so 3 Tbs was right up our alley!  
  • Olive Oil can be used as well.  I just use whichever one I have handy.  

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

Melissa & Doug Terrific 25 List & Giveaway

As the holidays are quickly approaching, I'm starting to gather my ideas about what gifts I will need to pick up for the kids on our list.  Every year since Grace was born, Santa has left at least one Melissa & Doug toy under the tree.

Of all the toys and gifts that Grace has received over the years, her Melissa & Doug toys are the ones she plays with the most...and held up the best!  Which is why I want to spread the word about Melissa & Doug and the Terrific 25 Gift list!

To celebrate the release of the Terrific 25 List, Melissa & Doug invites you to visit their Facebook page where they are giving away prizes every day until Black Friday!

Disclaimer:  I was not compensated for this post.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Menu Plan Monday 2013 ~ Week of November 11th

I apologize for skipping the past few Menu Plan Monday posts.  Busy weekends have been running into our Mondays keeping me away from my desk and computer.  Even now, I'm supposed to be out running errands, but Joe ran to work for a little bit this morning giving me a few hours before our hectic day begins. Grace is snuggled on the couch with some breakfast while Shrek the Halls is in the DVD player.  That should keep her busy long enough for me to share our menu plan for this week!  

The upcoming weeks will be getting even more hectic with holiday planning.  While our Thanksgiving dinner is relatively easy (especially since Joe takes care of preparing the turkey), I'll be stressing over my lists for Christmas baking, Christmas dinner and all of the holiday shopping.  It's not helping matters that I am trying to cut out the Diet Pepsi (yet again) and have been drinking decaf iced tea without any sweetener.  Although I enjoy the iced tea, I am definitely feeling the lack of caffeine since late Friday. 

Busy days paired with lack of energy is the inspiration for this weeks easy menu plan.  

Fend for Yourself Night
This is something new we've been trying lately.
This usually means that I'll be eating a salad, Grace will be having spaghetti
and Joe will find something leftover in the fridge to heat in the microwave.
It's been easier for me to eat healthier when we do this at mealtime.
Plus, less dishes!  So clean up is a breeze
when dinner is done!
I'll be sharing my favorite salad with y'all
later this week!  


Crock Pot Chicken Stew
I have chicken leftover from the weekend
that I will turn into a delicious stew in the crock pot!  
Perfect for these chilly fall days!  


Potato Bacon Corn Chowder  
We've been eating a lot of mashed potatoes in recent weeks.
I've made sure to make enough to turn into soup each time!
I doubled the last pot of soup and put some in the freezer
so dinner will be a breeze tonight!


Leftover Night 


Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
In keeping with the easy theme of the week,
I'll be putting my crock pot to work
for a second time this week!
This recipe is so simple and
will keep us fed for a few nights!
I'll probably freeze half of the recipe
for later in the month!  


Pasta e Fagioli 
I made a big pot of this hearty soup
a few weeks ago and put enough for
at least 2 nights in the freezer!
(I'll be sharing this recipe soon!) 

Fend for Yourself Night 
We'll be out and about for most of this day,
and I'm sure there will be a fridge full of leftovers
by the end of the weekend.  

Now that you know what we're eating this week, let us know in the comments what's for dinner at your house this week! Or, if you need more menu planning inspiration? Follow me over to Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie! Or, if you like what you see here, you can check out my past menu plans.

You can also find this week's menu plan linked to On the Menu Monday hosted by Yvonne at Stone Gable. If you haven't checked out Yvonne's blog before, I suggest you drop everything and head on over to check out her delicious recipes, inviting tablescapes and stunning photographs!

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