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Archive for June, 2011

Since Donner has been on a roll I thought it was time I got another post up, too!

A couple of weeks ago I decided to become a coupon-clipper.  I get the Sunday paper and go through all the ads, clipping any coupons for things I buy or might buy if its on sale and I can get a really good deal with the coupon.  Then I check out whats on sale at my local grocery stores and make my lists of what I need that’s on sale, match up my coupons, and wait for Wednesday.  ‘Why Wednesday?’ you may ask… because that’s when Pick ‘n’ Save, the store I shop at most often, doubles up to 5 manufacturer’s coupons worth up to $1.00.  So if I’m going to be using coupons anyway, might as well save double! (They also do this on Saturdays but lately I have been busy and/or out of town so can’t be doing my weekly shopping then.)

This week when I made up my shopping lists I had a few more places to go than Pick ‘n’ Save and my other usual store, Walgreens.  I had also scoured the ads for the best deal on lawn chairs, and had found a couple deals for stock up items at other stores I wanted to take advantage of.  With all this extra items on my list I ended up visiting 6 different stores and spending a bit over the budget I had set for myself when I decided to become a couponer: I had set my weekly limit at $75 and up to now have been well within that range.  This week I spent about $123, but you know what? still not bad!  Here’s why I’m ok with going over my limit:

  • Adding up my savings from my receipts I saved a total of $71.13
  • I found the best deal on lawn chairs: $4.99 each at Menard’s.  Not the best quality but they were the best deal, I saved $10 on the pair, and if I get a good summer’s use out of them I believe I will have gotten my money’s worth.
  • I bought a few stock up items that were on sale and I shouldn’t have to buy again in the near future like Kleenex and toothpaste
  • $9.99 was spent on a season of TV on DVD – gotta treat myself sometimes and ten bucks is a pretty cheap treat!
  • I came home with a $5 Target gift card, a $1 Walgreen’s register reward, and 29 Pick ‘n’ Save Monopoly tickets (each of which includes a $.25 coupon for a certain item)
  • And lastly I bought a few extra items so I can make salsa for a family get together this weekend.

All in all a pretty good haul!  Next week I’m sure I’ll be back to my usual under-budget Wednesday spree, but I won’t be any less excited for any deals I find!  Hopefully I’ll be back later this week to share all about that salsa I mentioned, hope you all had an excellent Wednesday as well!

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Chorizo Breakfast Bake

I have a confession that has upset plenty of people over the years: I’m not that big of a fan of breakfast.

If I’m going out to eat, I’d much rather go out for lunch or dinner.  There are exceptions.  My hometown has two places that serve great breakfast food.  But that’s a town of less than 3000 where people have the time to do breakfast right.  If somebody suggests Perkins, I shudder.

If I’m eating breakfast at home, which let’s face it, is 95% of the time, I’ve got a nice rotation of simple food that keeps me quite happy.  I eat a banana almost every morning in addition to some cereal or oatmeal.  Other mornings it’s yogurt and granola (I’m a massive fan of Kashi’s Go Lean! Crunch).  But to make a big breakfast just doesn’t excite me that much.  It’s not that I dislike scrambled eggs and hashbrowns, it’s just that I prefer the sorts of things I already listed above.  Most of the time.  I do have quite the weakness for pancakes (especially cornmeal or chocolate chip versions; French toast I can live without).  I also really love bacon, but who doesn’t?

Last year sometime I was out of town and my roommate had family coming to visit her.  She found this recipe for a breakfast bake online to make for them.  Surprisingly, I’ve always been a fan of breakfast bakes.  I think it must have something to do with mixing all the ingredients together and adding cheese (that’s the Wisconsin in me).  This one was sort of unique though, and I LOVED it when I tried leftovers.

Most of you will probably recognize the base recipe of this bake as something known around here as either “cheesy potatoes” or “hashbrown casserole.”  A delicious, terrible-for-you side dish we like to have with steak, ham, whatever.  The breakfast version involves scrambling half a dozen eggs and pouring them in the pan before the hashbrown mix gets added.  The original recipe also involved adding diced ham.  Simple enough, but tasty as hell.

A few months ago a bunch of us visited a college friend out in Colorado.  At breakfast one morning I ordered a scramble of some sort (ok, I have no idea what it was called, but it was all thrown in a bowl and covered in hollandaise, and it was freaking great).  It involved chorizo, a sausage I have grown to love in recent years both on its own and as an ingredient.  Believe it or not, I’d never had chorizo as a breakfast meat before.  After that meal, it definitely rivals bacon as my favorite.

Anyways, that experience made me want to try making “breakfast bake” with chorizo instead of ham.  I finally did it this past weekend.  Here’s the original recipe:

  • 5 eggs, scrambled and seasoned to taste
  • 16 oz. frozen hashbrowns (shredded or southern-style)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Diced, cooked ham (we use one 8 oz. or so steak)
  • ½ stick butter, melted

It’s easy to whip up: you pour the scrambled eggs in a greased 9×13, and mix all other ingredients EXCEPT the butter and 1 cup of the cheese and pour the mixture over the eggs.  Top with the last cup of cheese and bake for 45 minutes at about 350.  Then pour the butter over the top and bake 15 minutes longer.  In my new version I used the chorizo instead of ham, but I also added some diced red bell pepper and used mild cheddar instead of sharp simply because I had it on hand.

It turned out fine.  In fact, judging by the seconds everybody ate, more than fine.  But it just wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.  I had used a tube of spicy ground chorizo you can find at Wal-Mart here.  Sometimes, if you can even find chorizo at a grocery store, it just doesn’t have the spice I’m looking for.  The problem with using that ground pork chorizo is it’s so greasy.  And it doesn’t drain well.  So the melted butter the recipe called for was probably not necessary, but I used it anyways.  The “grease” wasn’t a huge problem, I just felt like it masked the fact that there were five eggs in there too.  So, I’ve come up with a plan to reattempt this dish and hopefully make it a breakfast masterpiece:

  1. Use links of chorizo with the casings removed.  Brown and crumble like you would Italian sausage.
  2. Use sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese for added kick.  Mild just doesn’t cut it.
  3. Cut down on the melted butter.  This will depend on how my chorizo looks once I brown it.  Maybe I’ll nix it completely.

The beauty of this bake is that you can do whatever you want with it.  You can use multiple meats or none at all.  Add more onion, or mushrooms, or green peppers.  So, even if my second attempt at the chorizo version goes amazingly, you can bet I’ll be trying a new version in the near future!

Update 2/12/12:

I finally re-attempted this recipe last weekend for the Super Bowl.  Well, not specifically for the Super Bowl, that just happened to be occurring at the same time 🙂

For being so vastly populated by Hispanics, Los Angeles proved a difficult place to find chorizo!  Trader Joe’s let me down; the only thing I could find was tofu chorizo…no thanks.  The only thing we had previously found at Ralph’s was some of the same cheap, ground chorizo that proved so disappointing above.  This left….Whole Foods.  A delightful store to be sure, when you want to pay 3x more for every item you buy.  Their meat department…had no chorizo.  Finally Ali just asked the guy behind the counter what was up, and he told us to please go find the chorizo in the cheese section.  Umm…ok.  I guess people here consider chorizo more of an appetizer (think proscuitto/anti pasti) than a main-course meat.  Anyways, there it was…Spanish style chorizo, not ground…and $9 for less than a pound 🙂

However, dicing a link of chorizo proved the perfect way to incorporate this meat into the breakfast bake.  We still added all the melted butter and this was not at all greasy like our first attempt.  You could actually taste fluffy scrambled eggs!  The only regret I have is that, being Spanish chorizo, the meat was a little sweeter than I would have preferred.  However, it still gave unbelievable flavor to the dish.  We didn’t add red bells this time, but maybe in the future 🙂

By the way, this makes great leftovers.  I took it to work for lunch…yum!

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This morning during my usual internet surfing I came across a Fitbie article called “Food Swaps That Fight Belly Fat.”  Hmm.  Some of these I’d heard before.  Who hasn’t been told spinach or romaine is better than iceberg lettuce?  Or that you should eat nuts or seeds instead of pretzels?  Ok, ok…getting off my soapbox.

One of the suggestions totally triggered my interest, however.  Well, two actually.  Cauliflower for rice sounds mighty intriguing.  But since I don’t follow a low-carb diet (far from it) and brown rice has so many good things in it that cauliflower really doesn’t, I’ll save this for later.  The one that really interested me was avocado for butter.  The butter you put in cookies.  What?!

A little background here, folks.  Cookies are the reason I love to cook.  They are the first thing I can ever remember baking.  My Grandma would make dozens at a time to deliver to friends and family.  She was also fond of freezing ice cream pails full of a variety to pull out a few weeks after a baking spree.  When she’d babysit my sisters and me, we very frequently found ourselves baking cookies.  Now, I inherited her talent in the kitchen but I did not inherit her patience.  How she handled two or three little ones helping her measure and stir I’ll never understand.  But she took the time to teach us how to properly measure out a cup of flour, and never got irritated if we screwed up.  Such good memories!  Unfortunately, I’m a perfectionist and a control freak in the kitchen.  I have a hard time letting even my sisters or mom help me with some tasks…much less a three year old.

Anyways, cookies are the heart of what I do.  I just don’t make them that frequently anymore.  That’s mostly due to the fact that I have one roomie, and two of us have no business eating an entire batch of cookies before they go stale.  Still, YUM.  So the idea of making a batch of cookies with avocado in them scares me a little (especially since I’m not that big of a fan of avocado in anything but guac).  But the article said it would cut fat and calorie content by around 40%.  So I’m willing to try.  The article also claimed my cookies would be softer and chewier.  I don’t know how I feel about that.  I like my cookie with a little bit of bite…not rock-hard, but not all cake-like either.

So, with a large family get-together this weekend, I’ve decided to whip up a batch or two of cookies and try this avocado twist.  The first step was picking a recipe.  Chocolate-chocolate chips are one of my favorites, and my recipe calls for all butter, no shortening.  Perfect!  I also have some fancy dutched cocoa and 60% cacao chips leftover from a truffle session this past Christmas.  Might as well get some antioxidants by using dark chocolate, right?  This will probably be the “healthiest” batch of cookies I ever create.  I’ll run to the store tonight or tomorrow so I can nab an avocado and let it ripen for a few days.  Hopefully I have good things to share in a few days!

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Hello!  I know there are still some finishing touches to put on the blog, but I just couldn’t wait to get started and I think last night’s dinner would be a good place to start.

This past Saturday I was at the farmer’s market and picked up a bunch of little red onions since I wanted to try making a pasta salad and the recipe over at foodnetwork.com I was using as a guide had it as an ingredient.  I also picked up a big bunch of asparagus, figuring I’d find something to do with it later.  Next day I was perusing the weekly Pick ‘N’ Save ad and discovered a deal for a free package of Roundy’s bratwursts AND brat buns when you bought any 12-Pack of Point brand beer.  I picked up some Nude Beach, free grilling stuffs and the rest of my pasta salad fixings and we planned to grill out Tuesday night.

I came home from work last night to the smell of charcoal heating up and went to work on my pasta salad to have as a side dish and to keep in the fridge for lunches and snacks.  I used the recipe linked above as a rough guide, but basically did my own thing: about 1/2 box elbow macaroni, 2 stalks celery chopped, the whole bunch of red onions finely chopped, 1/2 bag of peas, 3 Tbs sour cream and 2/3 cups mayonnaise mixed it all together, seasoned with parsley, salt and pepper and enjoyed!

When the coals were hot, Chris was wondering if there was anything else to grill up since he hates getting the grill going just for a couple brats, thinking it is a waste of hot coals.  That’s when I remembered the asparagus I’d bought and suggested throwing those on the grill, too.

Everything was delicious! (well, the brat buns weren’t so great. we will be paying for pastry buns the rest of the summer) The asparagus was so much better than anything we’ve gotten from the store so far this season, and the grill taste just added to that great flavor.  The macaroni salad turned out just the way I’d hoped: tasty and refreshing.  And our cold Point beers washed down our Secret Stadium Sauce-soaked brats perfectly!

It was a perfect early summer evening and we topped it off catching up on Parks and Recreation and snacking on more Macaroni salad.  I can’t wait for summer grilling out and blogging!

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