Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Saving Money - Tricks and Tips

A dear friend of mine, her mother and I were all gabbing yesterday and like usual I was telling them about one of my money saving tips. They were excited and told me I really should start a blog dedicated to saving money.
Well, you know, I already have a blog and you all already like money (I presume). So why not transform my blog? I've decided that this blog will become an "I've Tried That" blog...obviously, if I post a recipe then...I've Tried It...so, it seems to me that it fits.

I'm hoping you will enjoy this new theme of my blog and to start you off I'll talk about one way that I have saved money...Ibotta.
Let me start off by saying that I have not been endorsed by Ibotta and they haven't ask me to write about them. I am going to give you my honest opinion about this phone app.

Ibotta is an app you use on your smartphone. It's an app intended to use before and after you shop, but I prefer to use it as soon as I get home from a shopping trip. Basically, it gives you rebates on things you already buy.

There are "Any Brand" rebates on things like milk, eggs, bread and tomatoes and more. Any Brand, meaning you don't have to buy a particular brand to get the rebate. These are my favorite since they are items that I'm always buying anyway. Yesterday I had $0.60 in rebates on tomatoes, chicken broth and onions.

How it works: You can scour the app before you hit up the store and see if there is anything you need available with a rebate. If so, you simply watch a short commercial or answer a couple questions or maybe check out a recipe. Once finished the rebate is unlocked. Once you buy the item, you will scan the bar code (or verify with a click for item without a barcode) and scan your receipt. Some magic happens while your receipt is verified and then, poof, your money is deposited into your Ibotta account.

How to Get Your Money: This is super easy. Once you have the minimum balance you can ask for a PayPal deposit or select one of several gift cards. Boom...you're done.

I started using this app about 4 months ago and have earned back over $50 for buying my groceries. The best thing is there are rebated for other places and items, too. I earned a $5 rebate from an electronic store yesterday! I looked after I shopped and it was available! Score!

I'm not as diligent as I should/could be, but I am certain that if you use this app to the best of it's ability you could really earn back a lot of cash!

Check it out! Use this link and we'll both be rewarded (you'll get $2 and I'll get $1)!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Maple Bacon Cheddar Chocolate Chip Cups

Yes, the name is quite a mouthful and so are these!

Yes! You! Will! Love! These!

Trust me on this...most amazing thing you've ever eating! Ever!!! These little bite are the perfect size for a sweet treat, but size is the only small thing about them! They are bursting with an awesome combination of flavors!

Ya, I know there are a lot of exclamation points up there. But, these really are out of this world, especially warm and gooey, straight out of the oven.
Try them, you can thank me later.


2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour                            
1 1/8 tsp baking soda                            
1 tsp salt                            
1 c unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar                            
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed                            
1 tsp pure vanilla extract                            
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup                            
2 large eggs                            
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips                            
1 lb maple bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled                            
4 oz medium cheddar cheese, cubed to about 1/2 inch                            

mini muffin tin

1. Preheat oven to 375. If using a good non-stick mini muffin tin, great. Otherwise, you'll need to grease the mini muffin tin with oil or butter.            
2. COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and maple syrup in large mixer bowl until creamy.            
3. ADD eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and bacon.            
4. FOR each mini muffin well take 1 tablespoon of cookie dough and fold around 1 cube of cheese. Place 1 in each of the wells.            
5. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool for about 5 minutes, enjoy!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wash that Funk Right Out of My Hair

As promised I will share my homemade recipes for personal care products. Now, to be honest I had to tweak other recipes because I had to be certain the ingredient list was small, too big usually equals complicated. I hate complicated! And, long lists also (usually) mean pricey. I'm pretty frugal so I'm not about to create some shampoo that costs $20/bottle. Mine ended up costing about $8 for 1 1/2 months worth. So, pretty reasonable!

So I'll start with my easiest personal care products...Shampoo and Rinse!

Splendid Shampoo and Simple Rinse

My daughter and I tried the “no-poo” method and it turns out it really just isn't for everyone. Our hair was very oily and just gross. No amount of waiting was going to help. I just love what I came up with. The shampoo smells yummy, but leaves hair feeling a bit like straw. However, the rinse is perfect to counter that. When you are done with this two part process your hair is clean and silky soft. And, I actually have body. My hair has never had body.

1 cup Pure Castile Liquid Soap (I like Dr. Bronner's Almond)
1 cup canned coconut milk (I used organic BPA-free)


2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1 cup water

To make shampoo mix soap and coconut milk together and pour into a pump bottle. Give a quick, gentile shake before each use.
To make rinse add both ingredients to a spray bottle.
To Use: Wet hair and use 1-4 pumps to wash hair. Rinse well. Follow up with an all over spray of the vinegar mixture. Allow the rinse to sit for a few minutes and rinse well.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Beans Beans they're good for your heart!

The More You Eat the More You...You know the rest!

Anyway, I really love baked beans. And my son really loves baked beans. The thing is, I knew there must be a better way to make beans than busting out the can opener, dumping the beans into a pan and heating them up. I means, don't get me wrong, mom, your "baked beans" in a can were great...but, seriously, we deserved better!
So, in my quest for wonderful beans I scoured the nets and found several recipes I thought sounded great. What follows is my rendition of those many recipes and one I think you'll love!
It's easy, it's delicious and, did I mention, it's freaking easy! Oh right I did.
So here you go partners...Make these tomorrow. Do it!

First things first...Get some thick cut bacon, I do not care what kind you get, just make it thick cut and actual bacon...you know from pork! Now, throw it in a pan and cook it about halfway done. Remove the bacon and set aside on paper towels. Leave the grease in the pan.
Here's what bacon cooking looks like, in case you were unsure:

Get an onion, a bell pepper (what color you get is totally up to you. I like them all and they taste the same, in my opinion, no matter what color you use), 1 clove of elephant garlic (or 5 regular cloves) and a jalapeno (I only use half the jalapeno).
Wash 'em, de-seed 'em, and chop 'em up.

Now, go ahead and toss those beautiful vegies in the bacon grease and start to cook them down until they are soft-ish. Deglaze the pan while you're cooking down the onion mixture. Here's a batch that I made with green bell peppers. And another with the orange peppers. They were equally yumm!

Now, here's a secret that I learned from the Pioneer Woman's blog...Canned pork n beans. 3 cans, to be exact. There isn't anything to it, just open them up and dump them in the pan with the onion mixture

Stir the mixture and set it to medium heat while you measure out the next ingredients. You'll need BBQ sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, mustard (yes, whatever kind you want. sometimes I like to mix it up and use a little of 2 types of mustard), & cumin. Stir it together well.
Now, add it to your beans, which should be nice and hot by now...
Blend this together well and lay the bacon pieces over the top. Here's another picture for the hell of it!

Now, pop those babies in the oven for a couple hours. Really cook down the beans and everything so they are so delicious you could eat the beans for a meal! I take the bacon off the top and rough chop it before stirring it back in.

Now, here's the recipe.

Mel's Sweet and Savory Baked Beans

6 slices Thick Cut Bacon
1 medium white onion, coarse chopped
5 cloves garlic or 1 clove elephant garlic, coarse chopped
1 medium bell pepper, any color, coarse chopped
1/2 jalapeno, coarse chopped
3 cans pork n beans
3/4 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons mustard, any type
1 teaspoon cumin

Preheat oven to 325.
Fry bacon in 12 inch skillet until cooked about halfway. Set aside to drain on paper towels.
Add onion, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno to bacon grease and cook until tender.
Add pork n beans and stir. Let simmer on medium heat.
While simmering, stir together BBQ sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard and cumin. Pour into beans and stir.
If your pan is oven safe, top with bacon and bake in center of over for 2 hours. The sauce will thicken.
If your skillet is not oven proof, transfer the mixture to a 9x11 glass dish. Top with bacon and bake for 2 hours.
Once beans are finished baking, remove the bacon from the top and coarse chop. Add back into the mixture and stir just before serving.


beans, baked beans, BBQ, summer, cooking, vegetables, legumes, bell pepper, onion, garlic, jalapeno, pork

Saturday, April 25, 2015

How to turn 3 Pounds Ground into 3 Freezer meals, fast!

So you over there at your house. It's pretty late and your all "Shoot! I don't know what the heck is for dinner!" Then I laugh at you because you talk like my grandma. Then we just decide that wine is better for dinner anyway.
But, no. Seriously. What to do?? Run to the store and buy some food, and then come home and cook and then eat and then...NO MORE AND THEN!
Here is what you should  have done...About a week ago you were reading this one blog by Melissa and she told you how to make freezer meals. And you did.
If you take my advice now, you'll try this trick this weekend and be ready whenever lack of time strikes!

This is, hand down, the easiest way to get dinner out of the way.  I'll call it...Power-cooking, and here's what you'll need.

3 pounds ground meat (turkey, chicken or beef)
1 extra large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced

Combine all in large skillet and brown 15-17 minutes or until meat is crumbly.
Divide into 3 portions into large zip-lock baggies.
This is your base for 3 meals...

You can make tacos, chili, sloppy joes, beef stroganoff, spaghetti or italian hoagies!
1 TBSP chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cayenne
1 can tomato sauce (8oz)

2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
5 oz cream of chicken soup (1/2 of a can)
1 cup sour cream
(Optional) 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms

Spaghetti (cheater):
1 jar marinara sauce

Chili (cheater):
1 packet chili mix
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans or kidney beans, drains
1 can tomato sauce (8oz)

Italian Hoagies (mix well in bag before adding beef):
1 packet Italian salad dressing
1/2 cup water
8 oz mild pepper rings, not drained

Sloppy Joes (cheater):
1 Can sloppyjoe mix

When ready defrost in fridge and heat on the stovetop. If you prep on a Sunday you can leave the bags in the fridge so they are ready any day.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Who Wants S'More?

We have a great little chiminea in our backyard. The kids love to have "bon fires" and cook s'mores. And, who can blame them? S'mores are delish, right?! Right!
Last week we had one of these nights and, as usual, there were leftover graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows. So, after passing the crackers and chocolate on the counter a few times, the idea of S'Mores pie popped into my brain.
I had to make it, it was going to happen, it freakin' happened! Ohhh Yeah!
Oh, and my youngest child said I should name it "hashtag s'mores pie" so of course I did...
Check this baby out!



1 stick Softened Butter
1 cup White Sugar
1 whole Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 cup Flour
1.5 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 whole Chocolate Bars
1 cups Mini Marshmallows, divided
1/2 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips


Preheat oven to 350°F
Using a stand mixer cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and vanilla and combine. Add flour and graham crackers and combine.
Using half the dough create a pie crust on the bottom and sides of pie pan. Break apart chocolate bars and line the bottom of the pie crust. Sprinkle 1/2 cup marshmallows over the chocolate bars.
With the remaining dough make balls and pat flat. Cover the pie in sections until the while pie is covered.
Sprinkle with the chocolate chips and 1/2 cup marshmallows.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
Cool completely before cutting.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Cheese Please

Cheese is an amazing thing. I have never met someone who hates cheese. Ever. And if I did, I might not be able to be their friend. There is something about that ooey, gooey, stringy stuff that makes my mouth water.

This morning I was daydreaming about cheese filled pretzels and, although I have the ingredients to make them, I didn't feel like putting that much effort into cooking.  So I grabbed a few items from the store after dropping the kids off at school and rushed home to make something you're going to want to make tonight!

It's Really easy! Just unroll and pile on the ingredients.
Roll Up the Bread

Bake the loaf.

Cheese Bomb Bread

1 pkg refrigerated French bread dough
Italian seasoning
onion powder
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan (not the stuff that sits on the shelf at the store...blech!)
2 handfuls shredded cheddar or Colby

Preheat oven according to bread dough package. Remove dough from package. Find the seam on the dough and unroll carefully.
Sprinkle the whole loaf with Italian seasoning and onion powder. At one end of dough, spread the garlic along the edge and sprinkle the parmesan cheese over garlic. Over the remaining dough spread yellow cheese (whichever you picked), but do not cover the last 2-3 inches of the dough.
Roll the dough back up, starting at the end you placed the garlic. Turn dough over so the seam in down.
Bake according to package.