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by: Emily St. John Mandel

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Here is a break from the coupon adventure for a recipe that has been requested that I post (Hi Sue!):

Granny's Caramels

This recipe was introduced to me through my husband's Grandma.

1 lb (4 sticks) butter
2 lbs light brown sugar (1 bag)
2 cups white Karo syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Butter a 9x13 inch pan (or a long cookie sheet with at least an inch high edge.
Melt the first two ingredients in a heavy kettle (needs to be deep because it bubbles up).
Add 2 cups light corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk.
Cook until candy thermometer reads 245 degrees F. (do not go below 240 or above 250 degrees)
Carefully pour mixture into buttered pan. Cool mixture in the refrigerator.
Take out 30 minutes before cutting, Wrap in waxed paper.

Tips to take into consideration: It takes a few makings to figure out your stove and how much to heat these caramels to. The candy thermometer is very important because it is your key to either caramel sauce or hard HARD caramels.
This recipes does make roughly 250-275 caramels depending on how big you wrap them. You should keep that in mind when you see how much butter and sugar is in this recipe.

I love this recipe. When I need to wrap these I put a movie on, and sit at the table and wrap, wrap, wrap (and try very hard to not eat them all.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Couponing this weeks meals - Working out the Kinks - Week 1

Okay so a few friends asked me to post a blog about my attempt to keep our weekly food budget at the grocery store under $25. This is week one...I like to call it working out the kinks...

So We've run into a rough patch with money this month between paying for a couple vacations from previous two months, car problems, and probably some unchecked spending. As a stay at home mom, there isn't much I can do to help bring in more money so I decided to help where I could.

First, I decided to take a month off my ballet classes (a whopping $165 a month savings) because yes I love it but I'm hoping to figure out how to work at the studio to earn some free classes to go back. I also decided if it's just a month or two it's ok. I can do my ballet at home and maybe take a class here and there. I'd like to mention this was voluntary as my husband did say I should keep going. I feel that it's an extra splurge at the moment.

Second, I have been dabbling in couponing since july and decided I could "kick it up a notch" and really try to spend only $25 dollars at the grocery store for a weeks worth of food. This week happened to be the best week for it as our local grocery store, Albertson's, had twice the value coupons in the sunday paper. They will double a coupon up to a dollar making some items on sale free.

For those not new to the best way to use coupons, here's a quick run down. Manufacturer's put items on sale. They also send out coupons weekly in papers they have contracts with. Your best bet is to match the coupons up with the sale (which makes things WAY cheaper than just using sales only or coupons only.)

How did I figure everything out? Well luckily there have been a couple ladies who live in my are on the show Extreme Couponing and they actually make things easy for me. They figure out the ads and coupon match ups and even highlight those items that are best to "stock up on".

DISCLAIMER: I do love to watch Extreme Couponing but I am not of the opinion to get something I don't need because it's free. I like to think of what I am doing as realistic couponing. I stock on the items my family uses and try to work off my stockpile when money is tight (such as now). Also stockpiles take time to create, unless you have buckets of money laying around, try just using $25 aside from your weekly budget to add new items to your stockpile (anything left over from that $25 you can add to next week's $25 stockpile budget.)

Anyway...So I used my favorite site Coupon Connections and made a list of things I would like. A few months ago I had a friend (Hi Becky!) send me her spreadsheet on how she lists out her trip to the grocery store. It helps me figure out where I'm using coupons, how to maximize any Catalinas that print for "future" purchases (coupons that print when you check out good on your next purchase), and what my total might be.

I must tell you I went back over that list 3-4 times trying to make sure all my math added up and I was making the smartest choices. So Jeremy, my husband, went with me last night around 10:30pm because I was afraid a couple items I wanted that would actually make me $3.00 would be sold out at midnight and that would blow my budget. (when I have money makers that expands my budget without costing me more.) I was working on getting those items that would make me the $3.00 and asking the nice cashier if the items I got matched my coupons when we found out the store actually closes at midnight...well darn...

The nice, nice, nice cashier told us we could still shop for our items and she would put them in the freezer/fridge and we could pick them up today!

So we did that, I came home, secure in my purchases...and then I woke up and checked back on my favorite website to make sure one last time that things added up. Boy am I glad I did...i almost didn't make the extra $6.00 because I failed to put 4 items in one I quickly re-organized and added a couple free products I found I had coupons for and off I went.

I had a total of 5 transactions (normally unless you find a cashier as nice as I did, the store says 3 transactions per store trip.) Plus one transaction at a different grocery store yesterday for some produce and things.

Here's a list of what I bought:

1 French's mustard
3 20 oz Heinz Ketchup
1 Kroger's brand Aluminum Foil 75 feet
1 bag pinto beans
2 Hass Avocados
4 roma tomatoes
1 2lb bag carrots
1 gallon 1% milk
1 box Loaded Mash Potatoes
5 Loaded Chicken and potato TGI Friday meals for one
2 heads of iceberg lettuce
3 Steak Fajita TGI Friday meals for one
3 Bird's Eye Steamfresh Frozen broccoli and rotini with cheese
2 Bird's Eye Steam fresh Frozen penne and veggies
3.29 lbs chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1.27 lbs broccoli (bunch of three heads)
1 loaf bakery cinnamon bread (this was free from a coupon I had from a previous purchase)
1 5 oz kikkoman soy sauce
6 jello puddings (2 chocolate, 2 vanilla, 2 butterscotch)
2 jello - strawberry
2 Dreamfield Pasta spaghetti (this is pasta good for diabetics - very expensive normally)
1 small Morton's sea salt
3lbs 85% lean ground beef
1.48 lbs Honey Crisp apples
1 Sara Lee Whole Wheat Hearty and delicious honey bread
2 Beechnut Baby Oatmeal Cereal

Total retail value: $134.60
Total paid : $60.44
Total saved: $74.16
Percent saved: 55%

So I ended up getting more meat and chicken then I was planning on because the cost was better and I can roll that meat over into next week's meals. Best things I got for free: 2 boxes of Baby Oatmeal for Lucas, 1 loaf of cinnamon bread (which I used to make yummy french toast for brunch), and the pasta which is normally $2.79-$2.99.

Things I learned: My grocery store closes at midnight. I need to patiently look at the deals from the website to make sure I put my transactions in order. Have transactions as low as 67 cents is pretty awesome when the retail value is $25.

Food to make this week:
Chicken Stir-Fry (from fridge and pantry - rice and veggies, chicken from fridge as well)
Roast with potatoes and carrots (roast and potatoes in the fridge already)
Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup and bread bowls (from stock and from my list)
Pot Roast Pot Pie (from stock and fridge Items)

Planning already for next week:
Juicy Lucy burgers (from stock)

So there is my adventure.

Things I need to buy next week:

Dish soap if on sale
Vanilla extract

Last thoughts: I usually spend between $150 - $200 a week - this weeks purchase was a 70% savings. I think that works for us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Baltimore Beef Sandwich

So after letting the piece of top round beef marinate for two days we finally took it out of the fridge and grilled it up for sandwich meat.

This is from an episode of Guy's Big Bite where he was making a Baltimore Beef Bad Boy.
My brother, roommate, and I drooled over what he did to this piece of meat. So I thought I'd try making the meat at least. I'm not a horseradish person so I figured we could make our own sandwiches out of the beef.

First and for most...when marinating this meat with the spices - know that when you open your fridge you will smell the seasoning...and it will happen when someone else opens the fridge and you are across the room and you will smell this deliciousness. It's a big tease for how it will smell when cooking it.

Side note - make sure you have enough propane in your tank before you start your grill...we ended up bring this in and cooking it over our stove top grill board.

It's juice and delicious and each of us in the house made it a bit different on our sandwiches. There isn't much left.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cooking marathon continued

What else have I been working on you say?

Oh well I made some of my standard dessert recipes.
Peanut Butter Balls and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

Both of the middle part of these yummy treats comes together very quick. What is the most time consuming is the dipping of the balls in Candy-quick/Almond bark like yummy coatings. They are really easy desserts that take time but usually have a wow factor when you bring them to a get together.

What else can I say - they are both very rich desserts and I love them.

Roasted Chicken - Just a little note

I've been cooking the last two days. I haven't really taken any pictures but I can tell you what I've been doing and some successes I've had.

First the biggest success. I have been dabbling in couponing. Not the Extreme couponing you can see on tv...but realistic couponing which scales down extreme couponing to have a nice stock at home for 8-12 weeks until the product goes back on sale.

In this endeavor I found chicken thighs and legs on sale for 88 cents a pound. So I got one of each plus an extra package of legs for a BBQ I was invited to. The last time we had a gathering at this friend's house she had "marinated" her chicken legs in buttermilk before grilling them. I have never done that nor have I actually cooked thighs or legs aside from the Thanksgiving turkey.

So I do what I always do when I'm experimenting in the kitchen...I went to the net for inspiration. I finally settled on a recipe from Nigella Lawson found here.

It was a very simple recipe and I dove right in did this recipe with all of the chicken I had in the home - Two packs of ten chicken legs, one pack of ten chicken thighs, and four boneless chicken breasts. I used garlic powder instead of bruised garlic, I also added Lawry seasoning, and used some Maple Syrup from my hometown that has been in my fridge for a long time.

The trick is to let it brine for 2 hours if you need to cook it the same day. It was very quick to get all this chicken in their plastic bags. When these chicken pieces started cooking I could start to smell the seasonings...oh was smelling delicious and my brother could smell it downstairs so much that he commented on it on facebook.

This recipe makes such juicy roasted chicken! It's now going to be a staple for me to cook a bunch of chicken quickly and deliciously. Today we had the second chicken legs over the grill at the BBQ and oh man...soooo good. I'm looking forward to using this chicken meat in other dishes this week.

On a side note: When I'm feeling down...I cook and invariably I feel somewhat better.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

So I was thinking of other ways to make my dinner cooking faster this week (working 10 hour shifts makes this pregnant momma super tired and not ready to tackle dinner after work). I do know that making food ahead has helped me have time relax and get my dinner in my belly on time for

I'm in love with cream based soups, however I'm also diabetic and pregnant and my husband is lactose I'm looking for ways to have comfort food that fits into my restricted diet and won't hurt his stomach. I found this recipe here and adapted it to what I can eat (the low carb pasta and lactose free milk for my hubby.


    Butter, salted, 2 tbsp
    Onions, raw, 1 cup, chopped finely
    Carrots, raw, 2 medium
    Garlic, 2 cloves
    Chicken Broth, 32 fl oz
    Water, tap, 1 cup (8 fl oz)
    Poultry seasoning, 1 tsp
    Roasted Chicken, light meat, 2.5 cup, chopped or diced
    Flour, white, 0.125 cup (2 Tbsp)
    Milk, nonfat, 0.5 cup (I used Lactose Free Milk)
    Dreamfields low carb penne rigate, 3.25 cup (the box)


In the soup pot, add butter, onions and carrots, pinch of salt, on medium high heat. Cook until carrots are tender. Add in garlic, broth, water, poultry seasoning, chicken, heat until boiling then add noodles. Cook noodles the amount of time specified on package. Ladle out 1/2 cup broth into small bowl and blend in flour until smooth, no lumps. Add back into soup pot and cook for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly stir in milk.
Optional: Serve with warm French bread. (This is very good the next day, too.)

Number of Servings this makes: 6 (roughly two to two 1/2 ladles full)

Nutritional Info
  • Servings Per Recipe: 6
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 304.5
  • Total Fat: 7.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 57.7 mg
  • Sodium: 724.1 mg
  • Total Carbs: 38.7 g (my restriction is for 45 g of carbs for lunch or dinner)
  • Dietary Fiber: 4.1 g
  • Protein: 23.1 g

What I loved about this recipe. It is a creamy soup. It's warm and comforting and the pasta I use is processed in a way that make it react more like fiber than carbs (which is why it's low carb pasta) .

What I would do different next time? Probably cook the pasta separate. The pasta soaks up the liquid broth and water. I knew this but decided to go with the recipe at the time to see how it would turn out.

What the food critics in my house thought (husband and brother): They both loved it. My husband had 2 bowls (because he had missed lunch and was still wanting to eat both lunch and dinner).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Grilled Chicken Tacos with Pineapple, Strawberry, and Red Pepper Salsa

Well since the last time I posted I have had a bunch of things happen in my life. Namely I am pregnant and expecting a little boy at the end of May. The first half of my pregnancy has been quite blissful however I just was recently diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes and what that means for this sweet tooth is a diet over haul and monitoring my blood sugar levels. Tonight I hemmed and hawed about what to make for dinner after my ten hour shift.

I chose this recipe from Spark Recipes because of the low carbs (what I have to keep an eye on) and it sounded very interesting. Here's a picture of how mine turned out:

So what I didn't follow in the recipes...well I didn't remember to buy fresh mint or red onion or how did I make it my own?

I mixed the strawberries and pineapple with half a red pepper and used lemon juice instead and finally I sprinkled Red Cayenne pepper in the salsa for a kick ( can get spicy). I then took the chicken and diced it up when it was done and served it taco style on two six inch corn tortillas that I ended up spraying a pan with cooking spray and cooking the tortillas until warm/brown. I added lettuce to the mix as well for a taco feeling.

The whole recipe nutritional information breaks down like this for a serving size of two tortillas heaping full:

337 Calories
40 grams Carbs
7 grams fat
30 grams protein.

It falls 5 grams short of my limit for dinner carbs. and the verdict around the house is that it is "very flavorful" and that it was "really good" with "the right amount of spice." Until next time with another Diabetic friendly recipes...have something sweet for me.