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Archive for the ‘Coupons & Savings’ Category

Tips for Perfect Cookie Dough

Raw cookie dough in cookie clumps.

Image via Wikipedia

After seeing this article on Yahoo today I certainly am putting “cookie making with the kids” on my spring break list! I think everyone has their favorite cookie and certainly we all want to sneak a taste of the dough even though we have been advised against consuming products with raw eggs. Who can resist? And who doesn’t like the smell of fresh-baked cookies? I mean they make candles with that scent because we love it so much!

Although the perfect cookie for me is the pre-packaged cookie dough in the store that you just pull out of the package and bake, I do sometimes venture to make cookies from scratch. Most people will have the ingredients for baking cookies on hand and these are easy ingredients to stock up when on sale or you have a coupon.

This article gives some really simple tips in the way ingredients are mixed as well as other suggestions of how to get your cookies to come out consistent and how to adjust the recipe to your personal preference for the perfect cookie. This is instructions for a basic a chocolate chip cookie dough but it also has suggestions of variations for the same basic dough so we can get creative!

Check out the article HERE and let me know what cookies you are going to be baking soon!

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Crockpot Ham & White Bean Soup

This is so easy it almost isn’t fair! It really takes less the 5 minutes to throw everything into your crock pot and walk away! This is one of my favorite recipes to fix on Sunday because I can start it quickly before leaving for church.

      Ham & White Bean Soup

Pour the cans of beans with the juice and chicken broth into the crock pot. Mix in the amount of ham you desire and place bay leaves in last. Cover the crock pot and cook on low for 4 or more hours. Serve with hot bread or rolls.

** For the ham you can use a ham hock, leftover ham pieces, or I buy the Hormel diced ham which I find in the meat section near the whole hams. I have started only using 1/2 of the package of ham pieces and freeze the other half for the next time! Stock up on the canned products and ham when you have coupons or find them on sale.This makes a really easy meal to always have on hand.

What quick fixing crock pot recipes are your favorites?

Homemade Can Rotators

I like to stock up on food items we use often especially when I can use coupons and find them on sale. There are many commercial can rotators available but frankly I would rather spend money on more food storage then a piece of plastic. I found several patterns online to make cardboard can rotators and after some trial and error and a little tinkering I came up with this cardboard can rotator that is literally made with just cardboard, popsicle sticks and glue! The ones I have made have held up perfect for the last 8 months. I have done 3 at the same time assembly line style and it takes about 1 ½ hours. This would be a fun project to involve your kids with for some of the easy steps. Most of that time spent is actually waiting for glue to dry! You can take a label or just write with a sharpie marker the “Name” of the product can in each rotator. Each rotator will hold approx. 15 cans like vegetables or fruit, and about 20 or more smaller cans like Campbell’s soup.

Cardboard Can Rotator:

Supplies: You can use any cardboard boxes you have but I have found those that are used and bent are harder to use. You can easily purchase a 14x14x14 box in the office section of Wal-Mart for approx. 67 cents. They are perfect to use for this project!

  • Need cut and have:                                             Also will need:
  • 2- 14×14 cardboard pieces                                   Utility (Exacto) Knife
  • 2- 7×14 cardboard pieces                                     Elmers Glue
  • 2- 5×11 cardboard pieces                                     Popsicle Sticks
  • 1- 2×7 cardboard piece                                         Ruler
  • 1- 5×7 cardboard pieces                                       Pencil
  • 1- 2×5 cardboard piece

Step 1: Take your two 14×14 pieces and lay next to each other. Using a ruler mark your “shelf” lines as follows:

Cardboard on Right:

  • #1: Starting from the top right corner measure 10 inches across the top and then draw a line 4 inches down from there. From the bottom of that 4 inch line draw a straight line up to the top right hand corner (making a triangle).
  • #2: Then on the same piece of cardboard start at the bottom left hand corner and measure across the bottom 10 inches and draw a line up 4 inches. Go back to the left hand bottom corner and measure straight up 6 inches and mark a small line. Take that small line and draw a line down to where it meets the 4 inch line you just did at the bottom.
  • #3: Then from the bottom right hand corner measure straight up 2 inches and mark a small line. Then go back to the bottom right hand corner and measure 3 inches along the bottom and mark a small line there. Draw a line between the two small marks.

Repeat this same step on the left side cardboard piece but you will change the directions you start with so you basically are making a mirror image of the right cardboard piece.

Step 2: You then will glue 2 popsicle sticks directly under each of the top two lines and then on the bottom line glue just one stick (See picture) and then set aside to dry.

Step 3: Take the 2- 7×14 inch pieces. These will be the pieces for the back panel and bottom. Take your ruler across where it measures 7 inches and mark a small line at 1 inches and another at 6 inches. Draw a straight line up from both of these lines. Score slightly with your utility knife to make it easier to fold, and then fold up the sides.You will take “one” of these 7×14 pieces and at the very top about ¼ inch down glue a popsicle stick across it (see picture below):

Step 4: Take one of the 7×14 panels and put glue on both of the turned up sides and glue the 2 14×14 panels to it and set it aside to dry (you can set a book on it to help it hold together and dry).

Step 5: Once the back panel and two side panels are dried stand them up and fold it in. Taking the other 7×14 panel put glue again on the folded up sides and place the side/back panel pieces inside of it pushing the bottom of the side panels against the folded up sides of the bottom panel. You can use chip clips to hold them together or keep pressing them together until they dry.

Step 6: Once the bottom panel is dried take the 2×7 piece and the 5×7 piece.  Repeat the steps (like you did with the 7×14 pieces) in Step 3 where you measure across 7 inches, marking the 1 inch and 6 inch with a small line, draw a line up, slightly score and then turn up the edges. Take the 2×7 piece and glue the folded up sides.  Glue across the bottom front pressing the folded sides around the edges of the side panels. Repeat this with the 5×7 piece which you will place the bottom of that piece about half way up (the bottom of that piece lines up with the line of popsicle sticks). See picture:

Step 7:  Put glue on all the tops of the popsicle sticks and just above them along the sides of the cardboard box. Taking your 2×5 piece lay it on the very bottom row of popsicle sticks where it rests on the sticks. Press down so it will glue onto the popsicle sticks. Glue all around the edges almost like your caulking the corners with the glue. Repeat this step with the next row of popsicle sticks with one of the 5×11 pieces, and then finish with the top row of popsicle sticks with the last 5×11 piece (this will also rest on the popsicle stick on the top of the back panel). Make sure you put glue around all the edges. Lay the can rotator on its side and place a heavy book on it to help press everything together.

Guess what?  Your done!

What ideas do you have for storing cans and other non perishable food items?

Alternate Cooking Methods

Are you prepared to cook food when your power is out? If you do not have a gas stove or an outdoor grill with plenty of propane you could be really in trouble. We were without power during Hurricane Ike for 17 days. Thankfully we did have a gas stove and were able to still cook.  This did however make the  rest of the house which was already hot from no air conditioning even hotter. Having alternate methods for cooking can ensure you are still able to prepare meals when there is no power or usual method of cooking. Listed below are several devices you can make at home with little or no expense. Although there are commercial products that are available these can work just as well and save you the cost of an expensive investment. I would prefer to invest in other emergency supplies and even a generator before buying a solar oven. These are simple enough to make and can make a great activity for a church group or scouting event.

Picture Credit: robnoxious.wordpress.com

1.  Rocket Stove:  This video demonstration shows step by step the cutting and assembly of a cans rocket stove. This is mostly consists of just different sized cans cut to make this stove. You can then use it to cook anything in a pot or pan like you would a regular stove top. The fuel is simple twigs and sticks you could easily find lying around however if it is wet it may be more difficult to get them lit. A suggestion given is to have twigs and small sticks already gathered and store them in a sealed bucket. You could also just purchase a packages of shims at a lumber or home repair store that will work just as well.

Photo Credit: odcooking.pragerfamily.net

2. Box Oven: You basically only need a heavy-duty box that can either has folding side flaps or a lid to close it (you can get a heavy-duty box at any liquor store for free). You will line the inside of the box with heavy-duty aluminum foil.  To secure the foil in all the corners and around the edges you can use a aluminum foil tape found at most hardware stores. This type tape is usually near the insulation section of the stores. Once assembled you can put either rocks or even a piece of tile on the bottom to prevent the coals burning through the bottom. You certainly can put skewers or wire hanger cut into strips to make a rack or another option is what you see with using full size or even half-size soda cans to elevate a metal rack. You can find metal racks like this in the kitchen section of  Wal-Mart, Target or other kitchen supply stores. The main thing is to make sure the rack is raised above the coals. You use regular charcoal briquettes and get them started outside the box. Once they are hot but no longer burning you place them in a pie tin below the rack. Use 1 charcoal briquettes for every 40-50 degrees you need to cook. So for 350 degrees you would need 7-8. Close lid and let it cook. You can even take a cooking thermometer and stick it into an opening to monitor the temperature in the oven.

Photo Credit: thermalcooker.wordpress.com

3.  Wonder Oven or Wonder Box: There are many places to go learn how to make one and they are pretty easy to assemble  Many people will assemble the wonder oven and place it into a rubber tub for ease of storage and transporting. Basically food can be started on the stove-top, oven or even a propane grill or camping stove and then once they reach the temperature they need to cook at you can transfer them to the wonder oven. When sealed off it will then contain the heat and continue to cook it.  It is also good for transporting hot items and keeping them hot.

Photo Credit: williamgbecker.com

4. Home Made Solar Oven: If you cannot afford a manufactured solar oven then this is something to consider if you or your spouse are a little handy. If you do a search on the internet for home-made solar ovens there are a variety you can make from card board boxes all the way to one built with wood.

Photo Credit: energywhiz.com

5.  Pringle’s Can Solar Oven:  Oh Yes. I had to see it for myself and it is really cool. This would be fun to do with the kids but also could come in handy in emergencies. This would mostly be for skewer cooking like hot dogs, or shish-kabob but it would be better than nothing!

What alternate methods for cooking do you have?

Make The Freezer Your Friend!

What is in your freezer? I spent years packing my freezer with prepackaged items or foods that required preparation to make a meal.  I  was completely ignorant of all my freezer could offer me.Your freezer should be your friend and a place where quick meals reside. This doesn’t have to always include the prepackaged “convenience” foods. What do I mean by that? Those are the prepackaged items you just heat and eat that are often high in calories and fat or often contain additives and preservatives we certainly could do without. My husband jokes with me sometimes that I “heated that meal really well”. For example I will do frozen chicken fried steaks that just have to be heated along with making instant potatoes, gravy from a powdered mix where you just add water and stir, and then usually a bag of frozen Steam Fresh Vegetables fixed in the microwave. So nothing is fresh and there was really nothing that I had to “prepare”. Oh it is convenient alright, but what about a real home cooked meal?

Everyone’s time is precious so making a real home-made meal can often be time-consuming and certainly not practical on busy nights. On those busy nights it is too easy to do the prepackaged warm and serve meal or even just stop by McDonald’s or other fast food restaurants. This was when the light-bulb came on that it was time to change how I utilized my freezer so that on those busy nights we can still try to have a good meal. I found that on a day I had time to cook a home-made meal that I can often make a double batch and freeze the other half. Foods like Chili, Soups, Beef Stew and even Spaghetti Sauce. You are already there doing the work so it really isn’t hard to just do a double or even triple recipe.

I found that dinners we normally will have leftover will not get eaten that week but if I freeze them we can make a new meal out of it later. For example we never eat more than half the pan of Lasagna so I freeze the other half. I can take leftover Brisket or barbeque cut into small pieces and use for baked potato toppings another day.

What other conveniences can your freezer offer? If you save leftover vegetables and meats they can be used in casseroles, soups, stews or a stir fry later. When you find chicken on sale buy it!  You can boil the chicken, shred or cube it, and freeze it to use for a variety of meals later. You can also take the broth from the boiled chicken and spoon it into muffin tins and place that into the freezer. When the broth is frozen pop them out and store in a freezer bag and these little broth “cups” give you about 1/2 cup of fresh chicken broth. You certainly can cook other meats to freeze and use later also. If you have left-over pasta store it in the freezer for soups and casseroles later. All of these things will help cut down on food prep time when making those home cooked meals.

Even more ideas?  How about storing butter and cheese? I do. We certainly stock up on meats and other items that can be frozen when on sale. This  makes it easier to cook those larger batches of meals later by already having the ingredients. We also store bottles of frozen water for emergencies. After being in a hurricane and then without power for a few weeks we found the huge need for this. When the power is out that frozen water will keep your freezer/refrigerator colder, longer.

Just make sure food is always stored in freezer safe bags or containers!  For more information about what is safe to freeze check out this awesome website:  http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Focus_On_Freezing/index.asp

What freezer friendly ideas do you have?

BACON!!!!!!

What would get you literally jumping out of bed in the morning more than the smell of bacon? Isn’t the world just a better place when bacon is involved? Chef’s have dedicated entire cookbooks around this one ingredient! Seriously doesn’t everything taste better with bacon?

There is a whole industry that pays tribute to bacon! I got my husband a t-shirt for Christmas that says “You Had Me at Bacon”. There were a dozen other clothing items to choose from all centered around bacon. If you search Amazon you will find all types of gifts that claim to look, smelling or taste like bacon. There is the Bacon Air Freshener, Bacon and Maple Syrup Lollipop, Bacon BandagesBacon Flavored Toothpicks, and Bacon Lip Balm.  How about carrying around your money in a Bacon Wallet? If you just can’t get enough bacon flavor why not try adding a variety of Bacon Salts or Bacon Hot Sauce? You can even give your loved one the gift of Bacon Roses for your next special occasion!

We usually have several packages of bacon in our freezer which has become a staple in our home. During Hurricane Ike our power was out and the very first morning our neighbors were out bright and early cooking bacon in their backyard. Being summertime in Houston with no power meant everyone had their windows open to get some cooler fresh air. Of course that bacon scent just wafted into our home sparking the question from everyone, “do we have any bacon”? Sadly no we did not and that quickly went on our list of supplies we will always keep on hand for any emergency! I really try to stock up when I can find a coupon or can price-match at Wal-Mart the sale price from another store.

I have several recipes that my family loves that include bacon like Baked Potato Soup, Chicken Carbonara, and a Stuffed Chicken Breast. We often do a breakfast style dinner and it always includes bacon! My biggest obstacle though is when I fix bacon for these dishes I find I need to make extra otherwise as I am cooking it starts to disappear when my back is turned and I am left with little to use for the recipe.

Do you have also have an obsession with bacon? Please share your recipe ideas too!

Spray Away a Bad Hair Day?

I hope I am not the only one who is lucky to at least find the time to fit a shower in every day. I know there are days my time is so short that washing, drying and fixing my hair just is not happening that day. In years past I had long hair and those were the days it just got thrown into a pony tail, but now I have much shorter hair and that isn’t an option anymore.

I recently had filled out a survey online for Suave Hair Products and they sent me a coupon for a free bottle of Suave Dry Shampoo. I will try anything if I can get it free! It is a good call by companies like Suave to do that because I have become a loyal buyer of many products after trying them while I may not have tried them without the free coupon.

So back to fixing a bad hair day. I did get the free bottle of Suave Dry Shampoo and I was hooked on the first use. Dry shampoo absorbs excess oils in your hair to make it look and feel less greasy and more refreshed. The fragrance is very appealing too! You simply just spray it into your dry hair, rub the scalp with your fingers, comb through your hair and then style as normal. Although it isn’t exactly the same feel as freshly washed and dried hair it is a major improvement from having heavy, dirty or greasy feeling hair. The Suave Dry Shampoo is made with mineral clay but other brands may have different ingredients that are to accomplish the same result. I do like the Suave brand which is reasonably priced but I also have tried TRESemme Dry Shampoo when the store was out of the Suave brand.

What do you do to improve a bad hair day?