Sunday, October 30, 2011

Monday Meal Planning: Halloween Week

Happy Halloween! As I plan this menu, I'm getting ready to dress up for Halloween tomorrow -- the first time in many years. Keeping it simple, but having a lot of fun with it. What am I going to be, you wonder? A crayon. In fact, a blue crayon. My boys will be wearing some borrowed Star Wars costumes, and going out with their cousins. I love seeing all the costumes and creativity that comes out on this holiday. It's going to be a fun day and evening for all!

Last week's menu went pretty well. I was especially impressed with my "treat" recipe last week - Brown Sugared Cinnamon Pecans. My family and others who tried them thought they were incredibly yummy, on top of being easy. Definitely a winner in my book! This week I'm trying a different kind of chocolate cookie. I'll let you know how they turn out!

As I write this menu for the week, we've got 2 FULL baskets of fresh tomatoes, plus 2 quarts of freshly made tomato sauce from our last huge tomato harvest. One will go in to Sunday night's dinner -- my freezer is overflowing with tomatoes! I know it won't be long until we use them all up, as this is the last of our tomato harvest. We're going to enjoy it while it lasts! Here's my menu for this week!

Sunday: Homemade Spaghetti Sauce on whole wheat pasta, and salad

Monday: Make Your Own Burrito Night, with garden tomatoes, lettuce, home made yogurt in place of sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, and our own No-Fry Refried Beans

TuesdaySweet Potato and Sausage Soup
Use a sausage your family likes -- I'll be using an Italian-style sausage. Adjust the seasonings accordingly!

Wednesday: Polenta Lasagna with Feta and Kale (I'll substitute spinach)

Thursday: Grill Night

Friday: Homemade Pizza Night

Saturday: Leftover night

My treat recipe to try this week
Cinnamon-Spiced Hot Chocolate Cookies

What are you having for dinner this week? If you need some more inspiration, check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie. Have a great week!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Frugal Friday Freebies: Cookie Swap Cookbook and much more!

Happy Friday! I have some fun freebies this week. If you're planning on having a cookie swap during the holiday season, check out the Cookie Swap Cookbook. Remember, you don't need a Kindle to read Kindle books -- just download the software for your device (PC, ipad, iphone, blackberry, or android device).

1. Cookie Swap Cookbook [Kindle Edition]
2. Allegro Classical Fall 2011 Sampler

3. Turn your favorite photo into a free 8 x 10 canvas or get 40% off toward any size canvas and free shipping.
Canvas People

4. Still available, receive any product from Ink Garden for free -- use code ForFree
Ink Garden

5. Free sample of Nescafe® Peppermint Mocha

6. Coupon for a free Jamba® Energy drink

7. 20 free 4x6 prints from Kodak®

8. Get a free Kleenex® Cool Touch Tissue

9. More Free Samples:
  • Sign Up for Your Choice of Free NRG-X Labs Supplement Samples
  • Watch Videos & Take a Quiz for 2 Free Suave Products
  • Score a Free Sample of Activate Vitamin Water
  • Receive a Free Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel Sample
10. More Freebies:
  • Download the Radox Spa Therapy Album for Free
  • Download & Print Free Disney Character Stickers
  • Like Alpo for a Free Alpo Real Dogs of America Membership Kit
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Great Cookie (or Treat!) Countdown Week 2: Brown Sugared Cinnamon Pecans

Hi and thanks for stopping by! This year I am on a mission to test drive one new cookie or treat recipe a week until Christmas. Join me as I find some new favorites, and have fun along the way!

This week, I made sugared nuts, specifically Brown Sugared Cinnamon Pecans. I've never made something like this. I've toasted my own nuts, made nut butters, but candy? This is something new. I'll have to say I was a bit intimitated -- it looked easy, was it really? Do you want to hear about all the candy I've failed making? Well, not that much, but enough to make me wary of something that looked soooo easy... it couldn't be, could it?

I am very pleased to report that in addition to tasting terrific, it IS very easy and quick too (How much better than that can a recipe be?). In under an hour you can make a tasty treat that would make a wonderful gift, or keep them to yourself for a fabulous sweet treat!

Here's the recipe I used. This is based on a recipe from (a great site if you love recipe hunting as I do!). I hope you'll give this one a try!

Brown Sugared Cinnamon Pecans

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1.  Preheat oven to 300°F.

2.  Break up or remove any clumps in the sugar. Put sugar, cinnamon, salt, and ground nutmeg in a zippered closure or other tightly closing plastic bag. Shake to ensure all ingredients are well mixed.

3.  Put egg, water, and vanilla in a medium sized bowl. Whisk the egg mixture until slightly foamy.

4. Add pecans and stir until all the nuts are well coated.

5. Remove pecans from the egg solution with a slotted spoon and place them in the bag of sugar and spices. When all pecans have been placed in the bag, seal well, then shake the bag making sure all the pecans are well coated. 

Smooth the nuts into a single layer on a baking pan lined with silpat, lightly greased aluminum foil, or lightly greased parchment paper. Before you smooth them out, they will look like this!

5.  Bake 30 minutes. Stir the pecans halfway through the cooking time,  redistributing the nuts uniformly across the pan before returning it to the oven to finish cooking.

6. Let cool completely before enjoying!

My whole family loved these! Do you have a variation of sugared nuts you'd like to share? How about another great holiday treat? Thanks for visiting and for sharing!

This post was submitted to the following blog hops. Please stop by and check out all the wonderful recipes and ideas!

ThriftyThurs Thrifty Thursday Week 46

Bassgiraffe's Thoughts Thursday Blog Hop

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Recipe: Red Bean Bolognese Sauce

Today I wanted to share a tasty pasta dish that uses great seasonal autumn produce. My teenagers gave this a thumbs up, so it's a winner in our house! This is based on a recipe from the book, High-Flavor, Low-Fat Vegetarian Cooking by Steven Raichlen. I hope you will try it and enjoy!

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
3 large carrots, finely chopped
3 cups chopped tomatoes (or two 15oz. cans diced tomatoes, including liquid)
2 cups finely diced winter squash (I used acorn squash from our garden)
1 15oz can kidney beans, drained
1/2 cup dry white wine (substitute sherry or water)
1 1/2 to 2  cups stock (vegetable or chicken stock) (reserve 1/2 cup to add later)
1/2 of a 6oz can tomato paste (freeze the other half!)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, or 2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp brown sugar (substitute honey -- I used blue agave)
salt and black pepper to taste
1 pinch cayenne pepper


Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and carrot.

Cook over medium heat until onions are lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, squash, and beans and cook for 2 minutes. Look at those beautiful colors!

Stir in the wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the stock, tomato paste, vinegar, herbs, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Simmer the sauce, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes, or until the squash and beans are very soft and the sauce is thick and flavorful. Add stock or water as necessary to keep the sauce from thickening too much. Adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and vinegar, to taste.

This sauce can be served chunky -- or you can process it several ways. I used a stick blender to partially puree the sauce. For a smooth sauce, you can use a food processor.
Serve over spaghetti, capellini, or fettuccine. I served mine over whole wheat rotini, topped with shredded parmesan.

I've got lots of squash, I'll be making this a few more times this season!

This recipe is linked to the following blog parties. Check them out for more great recipes!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

$4 Coupon for Vicks Nature Fusion

Here is a limited time coupon.. cold and flu season is around the corner, and these products can be expensive.

Get a coupon for $4 off Vicks Nature Fusion. Vicks® Nature Fusion™ is a new cold and flu liquid that is flavored with natural honey instead of artificial flavors.** Be one of the first to know about it.

  • Free of alcohol, artificial dyes*** and gluten 
  • Powerful cold symptom relief medicine 
  • Delicious goodness of real honey 
  • From the trusted Vicks® brand 

**Must be a Vocalpoint member; limited quantities available. Only one package will be mailed per member. Please allow 5-7 weeks for delivery.
Read each label. Use as directed. Keep out of reach of children.
**Caplets contain sucralose, an artificial sweetener. ***Liquids only

Tuesday Garden Update: October 25, 2011

Thanks for stopping by to stroll through our garden!

Our fall garden is coming along nicely. The nice weather here in Northern California is helping our seedlings thrive, while we continue to harvest what remains of our summer produce. Come and take a walk through our garden today!

We are continuing to aggressively harvest tomatoes. I can see the end is near, but there are still a LOT of tomatoes in there!

We saved some more seeds this week -- this time from the marigolds. I let the flower head dry on the plant, remove it and the dried petals, revealing the seeds.

Lots of basil to harvest this week. I am going to make pesto, and this should be plenty!

All the seedlings are doing nicely. Beets, lettuce, spinach, and nasturtiums are all doing well. The parsnips and kale are coming up slowly. If some of the bare spots on these aren't filled in by next week, I'll be replanting a few seeds. Also, the carrots are looking great!

How is your garden doing this week? Feel free to share your garden walkthrough in the comments!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Monday Meal Planning, October 24, 2011 Fabulous Fall!

Hi and thanks for stopping by! Last week's menu went well, especially my first cookie trial. I am trying one new cookie recipe a week, leading up to the holidays. Last week I tried Butterscotch Glazed Coffee Shortbread bars. They turned out wonderfully yummy, especially if you like a coffee flavor. They were not overly sweet, and were super easy to make. I will definitely make them again.

This week, I'm looking at recipes to use the wonderful fall produce from our garden. This includes our acorn squash, basil, tomatoes, and potatoes. Also, as the weather gets cooler, I'll be using my slow cooker more, as well, as slow-cooked soups and stews are a fall and winter favorite in our house. I'm still trying to decide my treat for this week, I have a fun cookie recipe as well as something else I'd like to try. Still haven't decided.. but I will soon!

Here is my menu for the week!

Sunday: Grill night (we missed out the other day due to various activities). For the salad, I made a great lemon juice and olive oil dressing, with lots of garlic.

Monday:  Pasta with Red Bean Bolognese Sauce. This is a vegetarian Bolognese sauce with tomatoes, winter squash, carrots, and kidney beans.

TuesdayHarvest Pork Stew 

WednesdaySlow Cooker Pesto spinach Lasagna, made with homemade Fresh Basil Pesto

Thursday: Spinach and Turkey Enchiladas

Friday: Homemade Pizza night

Saturday: Leftovers

What are you having for dinner this week? If you need some more inspiration, check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie. Have a great week!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Frugal Friday Freebies: 8x10 print, Holiday cards, Aveeno products, Xacto blade, and lots more

Happy Friday! I have some wonderful freebies today! If you're looking for more freebies, you can check out my new Freebies page, where I'll list ongoing freebies. The ones listed here expire soon or are "only while supplies last"... so don't delay!

Free 8x10 collage print from Walgreen's: Enter coupon code CLG8X10 at checkout and choose free in-store pickup. Valid thru October 22. If you don't want a collage, then choose just one photo, and I recommend a black border.

Free sample of Aveeno Living Color Shampoo and Conditioner.While Supplies Last! Limit one per household.

Free sample of an Xacto Z-Series #11 blade.

Free Holiday Cards, Mug, or Notebook from Ink Garden (you pay for shipping and handling only). Use code ForFree at checkout.
Ink Garden

Free sample of Find Your Bliss® Aromatherapy Oils

Free sample of ESCADA® perfume

Free deluxe sample of bareMinerals® lip color

Free sample of AlternaVites®

If you're looking for more freebies, check out my Freebies page. Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Great Cookie Countdown Week 1 - Butterscotch Glazed Coffee Shortbread Bars

Hi and thanks for stopping by! This year I am on a mission to find some great new cookie and other treat recipes. I don't want to wait until the holidays to find out I don't like them, so I am planning to test drive one new recipe a week until Christmas.

This week, I really wanted to try a recipe I found at Food & Wine's web site. They look very fancy but sounded wonderful. Of course, I needed to make some adjustments. I substituted regular strong coffee and instant coffee powder (Trader Joe's brand) for the espresso and espresso powder. I also left off the chocolate covered espresso beans -- maybe I'd do that if the cookies were a gift, but not for this test! Other than that, I didn't make any other changes. One added benefit of this recipe: it contains no eggs, so is a great baked gift for a friend with egg allergies.

Here's the recipe, based on this one at Food & Wine. My comments are in italics:

Butterscotch-Glazed Coffee Shortbread Bars

Shortbread Ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon finely ground instant coffee

Glaze Ingredients
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon strong-brewed coffee
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 300° and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

1. Beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until fluffy and very pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and salt.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the ground coffee. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer in 3 batches, just until the dough is combined.
3. Press the dough into the baking pan in an even layer. Spread a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the dough and smooth the dough into an even layer.

I used a very stiff spatula, using the flat back to press the dough down, and the edge to shift the dough as needed to make the thickness as even as possible. The directions recommend using a flat bottom glass, but our glasses didn't work. Use whatever you have to make the top of the dough as smooth and as even as possible. 

Dough in the pan, ready to be smoothed out:

 Plastic wrap on top, ready for final smoothing (yes I know it's red plastic wrap, I hardly use the stuff so it's what I have!):

4. When done smoothing the dough, remove the plastic wrap and bake the shortbread for about 50 minutes, until very lightly browned on top and firm but not solid to the touch.

Be careful not to overcook. I started checking mine around 40 minutes -- you don't want these to overcook. They will firm up as they cool. 

5. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Using a ruler, cut the warm shortbread lengthwise into 8 strips, then cut crosswise into 5 rows.

Do not skip the cutting step while the shortbread is still warm! If you let it cool completely before cutting, you'll just crumble it. Here are my bars, just cut. Not perfect, but not bad :)

6. Let the shortbread bars cool completely.  Allow at least an hour for them to fully cool.

1. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, strong coffee, corn syrup and salt and bring to a boil over moderate heat, while swirling the pan.

I stirred until the sugar was dissolved, then swirled the pan to keep the glaze from burning.

2. Boil just until slightly thickened, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; remove from the heat.

Now wait about 15 seconds are so, as the glaze will still be boiling for a bit after it's removed from the heat.

3. When the boiling subsides, immediately pour the hot glaze over the shortbread. Working quickly with a small offset spatula, spread the glaze in an even layer. Using the tip of a lightly oiled paring knife, score the glaze between the cuts, without dragging. Let cool slightly, then carefully lift out the bars and transfer to a plate. The bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

I found I had to reapply a bit of oil (use a neutral oil like canola or safflower) to the knife to keep it from getting gummed up as I separated the bars after they had cooled a bit. I then allowed them to cool fully on a plate.  


Overall these came out well. I like this recipe as it's easy, not too sweet, and wonderful tasting! The only changes I would make are grinding the instant coffee powder so it would be a finer texture in the bars, waiting for the bars to cool completely, and finally cooking the glaze just a tad longer so it would be a bit stiffer. I definitely recommend this recipe, and will be making it again! This is definitely one of those recipes that, even though it's quite frugal, it comes out looking very special.

This post is linked to "Show off your Stuff Party" at Fireflies and Jellybeans and Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. Check out all the Recipes, DIY projects and Ideas posted there!

This post is also part of 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies and Sweets Countdown! Check out the links below for more great holiday sweets.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DIY: Rockin' File Folders

Greetings, and thanks so much for stopping by!

Today I would like to share a craft with you that comes from a friend of mine. It's a great way to transform those fabulous old record album covers into something you can use and enjoy everyday. Here's an example of what she started with:

Gotta love the Monkees.. wouldn't you love to look at those smiling faces instead of plain old file folders on your desk? If you don't have any album covers you're prepared to give up for this craft, you can pick these up for not a lot of money at garage sales, thrift shops, and flea markets -- or even free on Freecycle!

Use a plain file folder as your template. Look at your album and decide which part you want to keep. You'll  want to keep the best part of the picture - often the top. Once you've chosen, line up the bottom of the file folder with the FOLDED side of the album you're keeping (again, usually the top). This will be the bottom of your new file folder. (Just make sure you're not lining the bottom of your template with the open end of the album!)

You can see in the picture that this leaves a bit of the album left over on each side, and more above the top. These parts will need to be removed. The easiest way to do this is with a heavy duty paper cutter. We took off the sides first. See the red lines in the picture? These show where we will be trimming down the album cover.

If you'd like, you could draw a line along each edge of the template, and cut along your line on the paper cutter. My friend just used the file folder as a cutting guide. Either way works, just make sure everything is aligned before you make any cuts, and of course, be safe!  The "template" file folder was curving up a bit in the picture above.. if you're using the file folder as a cutting guide, make sure to hold it flat when you do the cutting.

Here is my friend making the first trim (along that red line). Repeat on the other side.

Then it's time to trim off the extra from the top of your new file folder. This is where your file folder will "open". Trace or trim along the upper edge of the file folder tab (see the red line in the photo below). This will give you the general shape of the new folder.

With both the sides and top trimmed, now you'll need to do the rest by hand. Trace along the edge (see the red line on the photo below) then cut with scissors. Take your time and use a good pair of scissors, some of these albums can be difficult to cut. You could also use a craft knife, just be sure not to over-cut.

Ta da! Here's the result! Finish it off by applying a file folder label, covering the brown inside color of the album cover. Now it's looking like a file folder!

To strengthen the folder for use, you can apply some brown kraft or scrapbook paper to the inside bottom  fold of the new file folder. Just cut a strip about an inch wide and apply with a glue stick.

Match the color of the label to the album. You can buy these at any office supply store.

Some of the album covers were worn on the outside edges. To give them a finished look, you can add solid or patterned edges using a matching scrapbook paper and a gluestick. As most albums have a lot going on, a solid color is often a good choice. Again, cut a strip about an inch wide, the length of the file folder, and apply with a glue stick.

Here are all the file folders that were made. What a great gift that you can personalize! You can be sure that the recipient of these loved them.

That was easy, I think even I can do that :) Thanks, Mary, those file folders are rockin'! I'm looking out for fun album covers now!

This post is entered in the following link parties:

The Shabby Nest

Thirty Hand Made Days


Tip Junkie handmade projects

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