Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Meal Planning: Christmas Eve 2011 Preparation

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook to get my posts direct to you, or you can can follow me on Pinterest!

If you don't menu plan any other time, this might be the week for you to jump in! Even before I planned weekly meals, I would always plan Christmas Eve dinner. Our family has a traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner (well, our twist on it, anyway!), and there is no way to pull that off on my own without planning! I save my plans from year to year, so I don't have to start from scratch -- just a tweak here or there. I'll be doing some preparations all week to spread it all out.

Just a couple notes about last week's menu... my acorn squash soup turned out fabulous! I'm also working on refining my pulled pork slow cooker recipe -- hoping to share that sometime soon!

I'm still working on using up things we have hanging around in the pantry, freezer, and frig (though the frig is relatively empty now), and I'll be careful only to buy what we absolutely need so we'll have room for our holiday meal items. I need to check that the seafood mix I bought for the casserole has enough different fish (fishes?) in it... if not we'll have another menu item on Saturday :) Here's my plan for this week!

Sunday: Leftovers and salad
Make Ahead: Cookies (Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies)

Monday: Black Bean, Spinach, and Mushroom Enchiladas
Make Ahead: Cookies (Chocolate Rolo Cookies, Snowballs)

Tuesday: Broccoli quiche
Make Ahead:  Cookies (Jam Thumbprints, Oatmeal)

Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie
Make Ahead: Cookies (Chocolate Chip)

Thursday: Grill night
Make Ahead: Kluski's, cut up veggies for veggie tray

Friday: Homemade Pizza night
Make Ahead: Pumpkin Cheesecake, french bread and rolls, hot crab dip, spinach dip (boys will make dips), Cheeseball
Saturday (Christmas Eve): Appetizers (smoked salmon quesadillas, dips, smoked sardines, cheeseball), Ham, Seafood Casserole, Kluskis with sauerkraut, Mixed Green Salad, dried fruit compote, rolls, dessert (Pumpkin Cheesecake, cookies).

Sunday (Christmas): Breakfast: French Toast Casserole; Lunch/Dinner: Ham Sandwiches, leftovers.

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

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coupons for your Holiday Cooking!

I will be the first to admit that I am not a "couponer" -- but this time of year, if you're cooking, you're probably buying items you probably don't use the rest of the year. Trying to save money and stay stress free is challenging enough -- coupons are a great way to save. Here are some coupons I hope help in your holiday cooking and baking!

$0.40 off one package of Treasure Cave cheese
$1.00 off TWO (2) Wonka Candy Canes
$0.40 off 2 Pillsbury Italian Meal Breads
$0.40 off Diamond Crystal Sea Salt
$1.00 off Wonka Fantastical Fun Books
$0.50 off 2 Pillsbury Refrigerated pie crusts
$0.40 off Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
$0.80 off one package of Truvia natural sweetener
$1.00 off 2 Divisional General Mills cereals
$0.75 off any Delizza Patisserie product
$1.00 off two Pillsbury Refrigerated Cookie Dough
$3.00 off one BON APPÉTIT™ Steam-Baked meal
$1.00 OFF 2 ARMOUR Meatball Products
$1.00 off two boxes Chex cereals
$1.00 off three Tombstone Large Size Pizzas
$0.30 off 2 Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits
$0.50 off 2 Pillsbury Crescent Dinner Rolls
$0.50 off on any TWO (2) Pace products
$0.40 off 2 Pillsbury Sweet Rolls
$1.00 off ONE ICBINB! Tub product
SAVE $1.00 on the purchase of any FERRERO ROCHER® or FERRERO COLLECTION PACKAGE 5.5 oz or larger.
SAVE $0.35 On the purchase of any SUPERPRETZEL® product (In Your Grocer's Freezer!)
SAVE $1.00 when you buy TWO (2) boxes of Quaker Life® Cereal
50¢ off when you buy ONE LouAna® Product
40¢ off when you buy any ONE package of Stevia In the Raw 100% Natural, Zero-Calorie Sweetener Products
50¢ off when you buy any TWO Pillsbury® Crescent Dinner Rolls
30¢ off when you buy TWO CANS any size/variety Pillsbury® Refrigerated Grands!® or Grands! Jr.® Biscuits
40¢ off when you buy any TWO Pillsbury® Refrigerated Pizza Crust, Breadsticks, Loaves or Dinner Rolls
40¢ off when you buy any TWO Pillsbury® Sweet Rolls OR Grands!® Sweet Rolls
50¢ off when you buy ONE 28 OZ. OR LARGER Bisquick® Baking Mix or Complete Pancake & Waffle Mix
$1.00 off when you buy two any flavor/variety Betty Crocker® Box Muffin Mix or Fiber One® Box Muffin Mix
$1.00 off when you buy TWO POUCHES any flavor 17.5 OZ. OR LARGER Betty Crocker® Cookie Mixes
$1.00 off when you buy TWO PACKAGES any variety Pillsbury® Refrigerated Cookie Dough
75¢ off when you buy TWO BOXES any flavor Betty Crocker® Supreme Brownie OR Dessert Bar Mixes
50¢ off when you buy TWO packages of Pillsbury® Rolled Refrigerated Pie Crusts

Happy Cooking!

Have a Healthy Holiday: Free 2011 Diabetic Holiday Recipe Book

Diabetic ConnectDiabetic Connect is a social network that empowers people living with diabetes. With this recipe book you will feast on nutritionist approved low-carb recipes. Sign up and receive your free Diabetic Holiday Recipe Book from Diabetic Connect.

Free Christmas Cookbook - 228 pages of Holiday Recipes!

Here's a free Kindle ebook you'll want to add to your ebook collection -- a free cookbook that covers everything from breakfast to dessert, and everything in between for the holiday season. 228 pages includes Cheese fondue, Tortellini soup, Cherry Punch, Eggnog Pound Cake, and much more!


Recipe: Tablet, aka Penuche, aka Brown Sugar Fudge

I have a confession to make. I am a terrible fudge maker. After two dismal failures in making fudge, I had almost given up. In fact, I did.. just for a little while. The whole process seemed so easy.. but I'd find some way for it to go horribly wrong. When I first made this recipe, I wasn't sure it had turned out right. I had never had Tablet ... also known as Penuche ... also known as Brown Sugar Fudge --  I didn't know that this wonderful treat was exactly how it should be! I highly recommend this recipe, whether you'd had trouble making fudge in the past or not.. it is fabulous, and easy!

I found this recipe while looking for a "different" sort of fudge recipe. You know me -- I can't just make "normal" fudge, I've got to go out on a limb. I love brown sugar... so this sounded like a great recipe for me. The combination of brown sugar and pecans is a winner for me!

Here's how I made it:

I wanted to make a thick confection, so I used an 8" by 8" dish, buttered well!

Next, I used parchment paper.. with the edges hanging over so I could lift out the candy at the end.

I decided to add a lot of nuts, so toasted 2 cups. Do this before you start the candy, so you don't get distracted.

Ten minutes at 350 degrees F, and the pecans are perfect. Cool, then chop roughly. Ready to be stirred in.

Time to get cooking the candy. Start with butter, brown sugar, half and half, and salt.

Heat to a boil, stirring so all is combined. Using a candy thermometer, continue to heat to soft-ball stage (240 degrees F). This stuff is scary -- be careful. Seriously, use a thermometer, if you have any doubt!

I don't have pictures.. but when the candy reached 240 degrees F, I moved it to a metal bowl. I stirred in one cup of powdered sugar, then kept mixing until it started to turn dull and looked "fudgy". I know that is vague, but you'll see it starts to look different. This was not the quick transformation I've seen with other true fudge recipes, so you've got some forgiveness here. Still, don't let it get so cool and overmixed that you can't spread it into your pan. Right before it goes in the pan, stir in your pecans, then spread in your prepared pan.

Looks beautiful! Now, wait for it to cool.

Just barely cool, I couldn't wait! Looks yummy, right?

Here's the recipe I used:
Penuche, from Louanne's Kitchen

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (you can add up to 3 cups)
  • 2 cups toasted and chopped pecans (you could also use walnuts, peanuts, etc)


  1. Butter an 8x8 (thick) or 7x11(thin) inch pan; line with parchment paper for easy removal.
  2. Toast pecans for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven; coarsely chop and set aside.
  3. Combine butter, brown sugar, half-n-half, and salt in a saucepan.
  4. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until mixture comes to a boil.
  5. Insert candy thermometer, and continue to stir occasionally, cooking until soft ball stage (240 degrees).
  6. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.
  7. Pour into a metal bowl (plastic will melt) and add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, beating with an electric mixer, until mixture reaches a thick, fudge-like consistency. .
  8. Stir in nuts, then Pour (scrape) into prepared pan.
  9. If necessary, wet hands to pat mixture into pan.
  10. Allow to cool completely before cutting into pieces.

You will love this sweet melt-in-your-mouth treat, especially with lots of toasted pecans stirred in. To make this more frugal, make it without the nuts --- it will still be wonderful!


This post is linked to the following link parties -- please check them out for lots more recipes and ideas!

Tip Junkie handmade projects
Mrs Happy Homemaker

Friday, December 16, 2011

Best Vegetable Seed Companies

Though we may be in the damp chill of winter here in Northern California, and the holidays are just around the corner.. we're thinking on Spring and fresh veggies from our garden. Remember?

Now is the time to plan that garden. What do you want to grow? I've got lots of ideas for next year's garden! If you need some information and inspiration, check out these top vegetable seed companies, as written by Mother Earth News.

What a great list! I have used many of these myself, and I agree they are wonderful seed (and plant) sources. Check out the full article, with lots of information about these companies here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

DIY: Button Wreath Ornaments Times Two

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook to get my posts direct to you, or you can can follow me on Pinterest!

One of our family Christmas traditions is that I make a few handmade ornaments each year for our tree. We steer away from the plastic ornaments in favor of ones made by me or the boys, or others that connect us to things we love (we hang a lovely Chinese-style ornament with a cow on it -- representing our dream to live in the country... as well as some beautiful hand blown glass fish from our tree -- trout to be exact. We love fishing and camping, so it fits for us :) )

A few months ago, while looking for something in the basement, I came across my stash of vintage buttons. Since then, I've been thinking how I want to use these. Today I'm going to share just one of my planned projects for these this season -- because everyone has a few buttons laying about!

If you peruse Pinterest DIY and crafts recently, you've probably seen quite a few button crafts. For these wreaths, I wanted to keep it simple with no special styrofoam forms or other expensive craft supplies. For these, I used buttons, a little floral wire, some hot glue, and ribbon for hanging. I started by sorting a bunch of them into colors. I decided to make one wreath out of ivory/white buttons, and the other out of abalone-looking buttons.

For the ivory wreath, I strung ivory/white buttons onto an 8" piece of floral wire until it was mostly filled, twisted the wire tight, trimmed the wire ends, then added a ribbon hanger.

For the second (abalone button) wreath, I placed some larger buttons in a circle, then started to glue buttons on top of them, bridging the gaps with the ones on top. I added a thin ribbon as a hanger. Here are my results:

Not perfect (perhaps a circle pattern on my craft surface as a guide would have helped!), but an easy and fun craft, and I'm pleased with how cute they turned out!

There are so many possibilities with this one -- so get your buttons out and have fun :)

This post is linked to the following link parties!
ThriftyThurs Thrifty Thursday Week 53

Monday, December 12, 2011

Recipe: Coconut Squash Soup

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook to get my posts direct to you, or you can can follow me on Pinterest!

Today I'd like to share a recipe that features the wonderful acorn squash we grew this summer in our garden. We still have quite a bit of it, so I wanted to feature this beautiful and tasty vegetable. This cold Northern California weather has me dreaming of making some warming soups. Put those together, and you've got my recipe for today! It features roasted squash, some warming spices, and coconut milk, for a perfect bowl of soup to warm you on a chilly winter's night. Here's how I made it:

[First, a note. I made a double batch of this, so I could put some up in the freezer. In my recipe at the end, I'll give a recipe for half what I made... just don't be alarmed that the ingredients in the pictures don't match the recipe!]

I started with my acorn squash. I needed to roast these in the oven, so I started by washing their outsides, cutting them in half, and scraping out the strings and seeds. You could also use pumpkin or butternut squash for this.

I sprayed these with my oil mister (you could rub with olive oil), and placed them cut side down into my pans. I cooked them for about an hour, until they were tender. Ready for the oven!

While the squash are cooking, you can prep your other vegetables. Chop the onions, carrots, and garlic, then place in a large pot. I used a big stock pot... I am making a big batch! Saute until all are tender.

When the squash is done, give it a bit to cool. Look how wonderful these look!

A peek inside.. perfect!

Next, scoop out the flesh. I used an oven mitt to hold the squash while I scooped, because I didn't want to wait for them to cool that long. The troops were getting hungry!

Place your squash and spices into the pot, along with some white wine and chicken stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes, while the flavors blend.

Stir in one can of coconut milk, then blend with an immersion blender. You could also use a blender or food processor if you like. Adjust the spices if needed, then simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Time to enjoy!

I served mine with a dollop of homemade yogurt and sliced green onions. The result was smooth, warming but not spicy -- perfect for a December night!

My boys preferred it with just a swirl of yogurt.

Here's the recipe:
Coconut Squash Soup
© Judi @ Frugal Frolic

  • 3 acorn squash, enough to yield 4 cups of squash pulp
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus some for coating the squash
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 - 3 cups stock (I used homemade chicken stock from my freezer)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (add more if you'd like it spicier!)
  • 1/8 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp cumin (add more if you'd like it spicier!)
  • 1 14 oz can coconut milk ( I used Trader Joe's Light Coconut Milk)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • yogurt and sliced green onions (optional, for serving)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut washed squash in half and scoop out seeds and strings. Rub cut edges with oil and place cut side down in baking pan. Roast squash in preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until squash is tender (should be easily pierced with a fork). Remove squash from oven when done, and allow to cool just until you can handle them.
  3. While squash is baking, chop carrots, onion, and garlic. 
  4. Place 2 tbsp olive oil in large pot, heating at medium heat until oil shimmers (about 10 seconds). Place chopped onions, carrots, and garlic in pot. Add a pinch of black pepper and salt, if using. Saute 8 to 12 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. (If squash isn't done yet, turn the heat off until ready to proceed).
  5. Scoop squash flesh from skins, and place in large pot with other vegetables.
  6. Add wine, 2 cups stock, and spices to pot (if vegetables are not covered in liquid, add just enough stock to cover). Bring to boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes.
  7. Add coconut milk, and blend until smooth. 
  8. Adjust spices as necessary, allowing to simmer for 5-10 more minutes if you make any adjustments.
  9. Serve with plain yogurt and/or sliced green onions, if desired.

Can't wait to have this again... glad I put some in my freezer! I hope you try my recipe. Please let me know if you do!

This post is linked to the following blog parties. Please visit them for more great recipes and ideas!

It's a Blog Party

HookingupwithHoHWeekend Bloggy Reading

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Monday Meal Planning: December 12, 2011

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by! Follow me on Twitter or Facebook to get my posts direct to you, or you can can follow me on Pinterest!

Our turkey leftover meals last week were fabulous! Turkey soup is great this time of year. Chili made with our homemade sauce from garden tomatoes was fabulous... but everyone's favorite was the Pumpkin Cheesecake! I am expecting to make this again for the holidays...soon :) And it was a joy to take a break from cooking and pull dinner from the freezer one night.

This week I'm planning to use as much as I can from the pantry and freezer. This time of year we've got a lot of bills, not to mention the holiday... so we'll be keeping things very frugal for the next couple weeks! Here's my plan for this week!

Sunday: Homemade mushroom, tomato, and sausage pasta sauce with whole wheat pasta, and salad with homemade dressing

Monday: Acorn squash soup made with curry paste and coconut milk

Tuesday: Brown Rice and Lentil Soup

Wednesday: Pulled pork (in the crockpot) and coleslaw

Thursday: Grill night

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!

Weekend Free Holiday Music: Days 10 and 11

Today are days 10 and 11 of Amazon's "25 Days of Free", with a free holiday mp3 download available each day for a limited time. Download "The Lights and Buzz" by Jack's Mannequin and "Wexford Carol" by Michael McDonald.

Find all 25 Days of Free Holiday Music.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Free Holiday Music: Day 9

Today is day 9 of Amazon's "25 Days of Free", with a free holiday mp3 download available each day for a limited time. Here's today's free music - "Jingle Bells" by Duke Ellington.

Find all 25 Days of Free Holiday Music.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Free Holiday Music, Days 7 and 8

Today is day 8 of Amazon's "25 Days of Free", with a free holiday mp3 download available each day for a limited time. Here's today's (and yesterday's) free music - "Deck the Halls" by Twisted Sister and "O Holy Night" by Leigh Nash. I was so busy with the birthday happenings here yesterday that I missed yesterday... but here it is! The Twisted Sister piece is definitely a "twist" -- but the other is more traditional.

Find all 25 Days of Free Holiday Music.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Free Calendar from Vistaprint, pay only shipping 12/8 ONLY

Vistaprint - Day 4: Stockings + Stuffers: Free Calendar

This Christmas, stuff stockings with personalized photo calendars. Help loved ones stay organized in the new year while reminding them of fond and special moments from the previous years. Place a photo on the cover and add one for every month of the year, customize with captions and use icons to highlight special dates and important events. Do it all for free! You only pay $5.67 shipping.

I'm Dreaming of...

... Spring! Oh, just for a moment. I'll get back to "visions of sugarplums" momentarily. But... My first 2012 seed catalog arrived in the mail. This one is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Trust me, I'm not much for catalogs. If they continue to send them (even after I've written and asked them not to!) they end up in the recycling. But not my seed catalogs. Baker Creek's catalog, as you can see, is a work of art.

But it's not just about the pretty pictures. They have a huge variety of seeds, all non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated, and non-patented. Not to mention reasonably priced, with reasonable shipping too ($3.50 flat rate shipping).

I don't have any affiliation with this company, I just love their seeds, their catalog, and their mission. So if you're looking for a peaceful break from the hubbub of the holidays, check out their catalog, or their website online.

~ Wishing you wonderful gardening dreams!
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