Archive | September, 2012

My new toy and TWO new recipes!

28 Sep

Isn’t it SO beautiful???

I have a new toy.

I’m *so* excited about it.

It’s something  I’ve wanted for a long, long time. Years and years.

Thanks to the folks at epicurious, I finally have it.

What is it you ask? (See, I always know when you’re asking.)

It’s my new Kitchen Aid Pouring Shield for my stand up mixer.

I know, I know!!!  I’m excited too!

When we went to Washington DC this summer for our White House luncheon, we got a goodie bag from the organizers of the event. There was all kinds of stuff in it, and one of the goodies was a gift card from epicurious! We could spend it however we wanted, on ANYTHING!!

I’d never been on their website before, and omg…there was tons! But, I had a budget of course, and I stayed within $2.85 of that budget. My pouring shield was on sale!! I couldn’t even believe my luck!! Even better…I had a coupon code for being a first time shopper (10% off)…and you KNOW how much I love coupons…I was even able to get a cupcake plunger too (you’ll see that come up on here  eventually too, I’m sure.) It was almost as exciting as meeting Michelle Obama. Well not quite. But you know what I mean.

So now I had to try it out, but I needed to wait for a time when I needed to mix something. You don’t just use a pouring shield every day, you know.

The pouring shield was a dream come true. No baking cocoa all over my counter and wall. Love, love, love it!

On Tuesday when Caroline asked me approximately 47 times if she could bake cupcakes, I knew I had my opportunity. We had a no school day on Wednesday and it would also be a grocery shopping day, so we’d be re-stocked on all the items we needed to make cupcakes, since for every recipe she showed me we were out of something.

We opted to go with Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting.

I know….you had no idea we’d go with the chocolate. Shocker, I’m sure.

Caroline found this new cupcake recipe on the Cookie Madness website. We did not use the no powdered sugar frosting recipe that went with it, however, because we had powdered sugar at our house. I’ll post both recipes  we used, so that you can see what we did for frosting.

This recipe was perfect for testing out my new pouring shield. It worked great every time, not one speck of powdered sugar or cocoa went flying anywhere! I’m in love…

COOKIE MADNESS QUICK CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

INGREDIENTS

2/3 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup unsweetened natural style unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted after measuring (4.5 oz)

Cool for a few minutes in the pan and then on a cooling rack, before frosting.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 12 cupcake cups with paper liners.

Mix together milk and lemon juice and set aside to curdle.

Beat oil and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in
egg, vanilla, salt, and baking soda until well blended. Beat in cocoa powder. With a large mixing spoon or rubber scraper, stir in the flour alternately with the milk until flour is absorbed.

Divide batter equally between 12 paper-lined cupcake cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool in pan on rack 20 minutes. Remove to platter to continue cooling.

Each of the three girls got to frost four cupcakes and eat one, saving another for the next day.

CHOCOLATE BUTTER CREAM FROSTING
Better Homes & Gardens

INGREDIENTS***We halved this recipe which was more than enough for 12 cupckaes.***

1/3 cup butter
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened baking cocoa

Milk as needed

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl beat butter or margarine til fluffy.

Add in cocoa.

Gradually add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating well.

Slowly beat in 1/4 cup of milk and vanilla.

Slowly beat in remaining sugar.

Picasso over here took about five full minutes to frost each cupcake. Each one was perfectly done when she finished.

Beat in additional milk if necessary to make of spreading consistency.

One full recipe makes enough to frost the tops and sides of two eight or nine inch layer cakes.

One each, saved for the next day.

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Sausage & Peppers

26 Sep

Everyone at our house likes some aspect of this recipe, whether it’s the sausage, the peppers, the pasta or all three!

Today’s recipe is one of those not-an-exact-recipe posts. It’s more of a meal suggestion post.

We’ve been back to school for one month now, and everything is getting back in full swing. We often need a fast, easy meal so we can eat together and then run to wherever we need to be.

Sausage and Peppers is that meal. Not so often because it’s not super-healthy for you, but on occasion it’s a good one.

We usually throw ours on top of pasta so that there is something for everyone to choose from, no matter what they like or don’t like.

To make this simple meal you need just a few ingredients:

Sweet Italian Sausage cooked through and sliced
Sliced Peppers (red, green, yellow any color will do!)
Sliced Onions

Cooked pasta (we like egg noodles but any kind is fine)

And the directions are simple:

Saute your veggies in olive oil and garlic.
Add cooked, sliced sausage (you can either cook your sausage under the broiler first, then cool and slice or you can cook on top of the stove, cool and slice).
Saute sliced sausage with sliced veggies.

Serve on top or next to pasta.

Option: Sometimes we offer rolls for sausage and pepper sandwiches instead of pasta. The sandwich version also makes a great meal to serve for our at-home birthday parties as part of our buffet.

Happy Blogaversary to Me!

25 Sep

One year ago today!

Normally I don’t post on Tuesdays very often, but today is a special day.

It’s my One Year Blogaversary!

One year ago today, I posted my first official post, My First Morsel, on this blog.

I wasn’t new to blogging, I’d had blogs on and off on varying topics since believe it or not, 1999 when my brother set one up for me with the birth of my first daughter. I will say, with a newborn, I did not post on that one very often! But, I was a blogger before most people (even me) really knew what a blog was.

Through the years I had a rubber stamping and scrapbooking blog, a blog of all my newspaper articles and a blog of our family recipes.

I loved them all, but with the amount of writing I need to do for my newspaper job, I needed to find one blog where I could post all of that and more, anything that I wanted to write about or share, all in one place. I didn’t want to limit myself to just one topic, but I did want to limit myself to only one blog!

And so, The Whole Bag of Chips was born. It was a place where for the last year I tried to find my way in the blogging arena, one which has exploded with blogs since 1999 when I wrote my first blog post as a new mom.

I can truly say that I love my blog. It gives me the chance to share and to be a resource and to try new things, all of which I love to do. It gave me something new to fill my days with my children all in school for the first time ever, last year. And, it gave me another excuse to write, to cook, and to craft, all things I love to do and love to talk about.

I love when I get an email or bump into someone, and they say, “I love your blog,” or “I tried your recipe,” or “I learned this from you.”

It gives me a warm feeling to know that I can share what I’m learning along the way and help others too.

When I first started, I remember being excited when I had 3 or 4 or 5 people reading my blog a day, and I was thrilled when I had more than 100 in a day, and most recently when I had more than 400 in a day, my highest to date.

I set a goal for myself last September, to see if I could draw a large enough audience to reach 20,000 hits in one year and I am thrilled to say that I surpassed that goal a few weeks ago, and as of today I am close to having more than 23,000 hits for my first year.

I don’t know how that compares to other blogs, and really it doesn’t matter to me, I’m thrilled and proud of my blog’s success this year.

I have found a posting pattern that works well for me and my readers, who span the entire world, literally, seem to like it as well. I have posted about crafts, kids, holidays, recipes, books, giveaways, day trips, awards I have received for my writing, vacation spots we have visited, my foray into couponing, living life on a very (extremely) tight budget as we move towards being debt-free in just eight more months, our amazing trip to the White House this summer, and really just about anything my heart desires.

So today, I’d love to hear from my readers. I always love your comments and feedback on any given day, but today I’d love to know: what’s one post that you particularly loved, or what is one topic you really look forward to? Anything you want to read more about? Let me know today!

I know my blog isn’t perfect, but I’ve got another whole year to work on it before my second Blogaversary. Until then…..

Happy Blogaversary….To Me.

A Great Snack for Fall: Cranberry “Brownies”

21 Sep

Alex’s favorite new snack.

Yesterday morning, as I was debating which fall dessert recipe to post for today, Alexandra came up to me and said, “Mom, when are you going to make that snack again?”

“Which snack?”

“You know…The One.  In the bag. The one you made us.”

Well, that narrows it right down, right?

Actually, the thing that clued me in was when she said, “In the bag,” because this particular snack was so yummy I cut them up and put them in baggies for the kids to take in their lunches the day after I first made them. They all loved them and I knew this new recipe was a keeper for sure.

So there it was. The snack. In the bag.

That’s what I should have called today’s post.

I tried this recipe a couple of weeks back when I was absolutely starving late one night and even though I was so starving, by the time it finished I was too tired to eat anything and I went to bed. It’s from a cookbook that Alexandra actually got for me for Christmas at last year’s Holiday Shoppe at school and it is the first recipe I’ve tried from it. The cookbook is called “Home Cookin'” and is an AT&T employee cookbook. The recipe is credited to Joan E. Dill.

Although it says “Brownies,” they are actually not chocolate based.

And yes, I still made them.

It also said in the recipe, “or Apple” so I actually did both. I used craisins and apples.

I’m going to make them again this weekend probably because Alex is having a serious craving for them, apparently.
CRANBERRY BROWNIES (or APPLE)

Craisins and apples are a great match for fall.

INGREDIENTS

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 to 1 1/2 cups cranberries or cut up, peeled apple
1/4 c. water

DIRECTIONS
Cream butter and sugar.
Beat in egg.
Sift flour, soda, baking powder and cinnamon together.
Add to creamed mixture with vanilla and blend well.
Add water, as needed to help, as mixture will be thick.
Mix in cranberries (and/or apples).
Spread in greased , floured 8×8 baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until center is set.

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Easy Garlic Chicken

19 Sep

This recipe got a thumbs up from all five of us, which is a rarity! Even the leftovers went quickly!

Last week I was on Facebook when a friend of mine posted a very simple recipe for garlic chicken. I absolutely love garlic, and I love brown sugar, which it called for, and I even had all the ingredients for the recipe already. I decided to make it the very next day. She had gotten the recipe from Food.com and you can see the recipe here. It was called Easy Garlic Chicken, and I love Easy as much as I love Garlic and Brown Sugar.

Originally, when I saw the cooking temperature, 500 degrees, I asked whether or not that was too high, but it wasn’t. We cooked ours at that temperature and we actually had to use the entire 30 minute cooking time because our very large chicken breasts were still partially frozen in the middle. We also differed from the recipe by using bone-in, with skin, rather than boneless, skinless. Every so often I like to mix it up a bit and buy bone-in breasts.

A side of sauteed asparagus and brown rice completed the meal. I’d definitely make this again and I encourage you to give it a try too!

EASY GARLIC CHICKEN

It was tempting for me to keep tasting the brown sugar rub. Very tempting.

INGREDIENTS

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons brown sugar
3 teaspoons olive oil
DIRECTIONS
1) Preheat oven to 500°F and lightly grease a casserole dish.
2) In small sauté pan, sauté garlic with the oil until tender.
3) Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar.
4) Place chicken breasts in a prepared baking dish and cover with the garlic and brown sugar mixture.
5) Add salt and pepper to taste.
6) Bake uncovered for 15-30 minutes.

We couldn’t wait for these to be done, the whole house smelled fabulous the entire time they were cooking!

Couponing Update: Back on the money-saving wagon

17 Sep

I had 3 BOGO coupons and $10.75 in manufacturer’s coupons so that I got almost all of these razors for free, and earned $10 in EB on to boot!

Last week I mentioned that after taking most of the summer off (not spending, but not saving either), I was now ready to begin couponing again. I had such an amazing money-saving week that I just had to share it with you today.

My first (and only) couponing stop: CVS.

I had been very close to earning $5 in Extra Bucks from the CVS Beauty Club (for every $50 you spend you earn $5 back in EB) for most of the summer, but since I wasn’t buying, I wasn’t earning. Last week after I’d cut all my coupons I was ready to save. I desperately needed a particular make up item from L’Oreal. It was a $10 item but I had a $2 off coupon and I’d get my $5 Beauty Club EB for the purchase as well. However, when I saw the circular for CVS I saw that if you spent $10 on any L’Oreal items you’d earn $3 in EB this week.

Even better.

I also noticed when I cut my coupons that I had several copies of a particular coupon that was Buy One Get One Free for Gillette razors for men and also for Venus razors for women. In addition to the BOGO coupons I also had four $1 off coupons for the Gillette razors and two $3 off coupons for the Venus razors and I had a CVS store coupon for 75 cents off the Venus razors too. You can combine CVS store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons and you can also use $$ off coupons with BOGO coupons.

When I saw the CVS flier however, I realized that if you spent $30 on Gillette products you got $10 back in EB. So I was going to be buying four packs of men’s razors and two packs of women’s and using all my coupons to get almost all of them for free, but I’d earn $10 in EB to boot.

I was out of Zyrtec. I had a $5 off coupon and I’d earn $4 back in EB.

It was a banner week, to say the least.

Here’s how it worked out:

1) Four packs of Gillette Razors $7.99 each, ($32) two packs free with BOGO coupons ($16 off), $4 more off in manufacturer’s coupons (down to $12 for four packs of four razors) and an additional $10 back in EB at the register.

2) Two packs of Venus Razors $8.50 each ($17) one pack free with the BOGO coupon ($8.50 off), $6 more off in manufacturer’s coupons (down to $2.50) and another 75 cents off with my CVS coupon (down to $1.75 for two packs of four razors).

3) Zyrtec $18.99 for 30 pills, with $5 off from my manufacturer’s coupon (down to $13.99) and an additional $4 back in EB at the register.

4) L’Oreal makeup $10.99 with $2.00 off from my manufacturer’s coupon (down to $8.99) and an additional $3 back in EB at the register. By the end of the week I’d earned another $5 back in Beauty Club EB because those Beauty Club bucks take a few days to process.

All this plus a case of water, a bottle of vitamins and a canister of wipes, all for free with my $22 in EB earned at CVS this week. You can’t go wrong with Extra Bucks!

TOTAL SPENT: $36.73 (for makeup, six packs of razors and Zyrtec)
TOTAL SAVED: $37.75

TOTAL EB EARNED: $22.00

What I got with my EB:
One case of water
Four packs of Nature Valley Granola Bar and Granola Thins snacks (on sale 2 for $5 plus I had $1 off three)
One can of CVS brand “Lysol” wipes
Four bottles of laundry detergent
One bottle of vitamins (on sale B1G1 1/2 off and I had a coupon $1 off one).

During the week I also utilized coupons for other non-grocery/household items.

For example, I took advantage of the Payless Shoestore BOGO Half Off sale plus the $4 coupon per pair of shoes they give you when the store you’re at doesn’t have the size you need to get two pairs of dance shoes for my daughter for $31 instead of paying $47.

We also ate out at the Olive Garden restaurant over the weekend, using a “Kids Eat Free” coupon for two of our kids’ meals and a $25 gift card from my father-in-law for my birthday, to get the rest of our meal for just a a fraction of the cost of what it would’ve been for five of us to eat out.

A great week, don’t you think?

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Baked Zucchini Fries

12 Sep

I have had lots of requests for the Baked Zucchini Fries recipe ever since I posted this photo from the Washington DC Kids’ State Dinner.

I’ve had a lot of requests for this recipe for Baked Zucchini Fries, ever since I posted this photo on my blog and on Facebook recently. It being zucchini season, it’s a perfect recipe to make at the end of the summer, and really throughout the year.

We actually made this recipe at the end of the summer ourselves, using a garden zucchini. They were delicious and they were easy. We used the recipe in our new The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge cookbook that epicurious gave us at the White House dinner. The recipe comes from Sydney Brown, age 11, from North Carolina. She submitted it with her winning Homerun Meatloaf Burger recipe as the side dish to accompany the burgers.

There are so many recipes in this cookbook that I want to try out, and slowly but surely I’m trying them one at a time.

This was a perfect summer meal!

We had our fries with oven baked chicken, garden tomato salad, and green beans. Don added a dip on the side for the fries which consisted of a mix of mayo and cocktail sauce.

Here is Sydney’s recipe, just as she has it in the cookbook. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

1 large egg white

1/3 cup milk

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

salt and pepper

2 large green or yellow zucchini, peeled, trimmed, and cut into strips (2″ long 1/4″ thick)

Place your zucchini fries on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 425 degrees.

DIRECTIONS

Combine the egg white and milk in a small bowl and combine the Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in another small bowl.

Dip the zucchini slices first in the milk mixture and then in the cheese mixture. Shake off any excess, then move to the baking sheet and place in the oven.

Bake for 10-15 minutes at 425 degrees.

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