Friday, July 17, 2015

New Post Idea

Hey Y'all!

I have had an idea for a new sort of post in the back of my mind for a while now & wanted to share it with y'all. As I've mentioned before, I don't always have new recipes to share each week. However, I am trying to grow this blog and really would love to post at least 3 times a week. But, if my posts always revolve around a recipe, then it won't be possible to write a post 3 times a week. 

I started this blog because I love cooking and I also love writing. I definitely want to keep cooking as the main subject of my blog. Having said that, I've begun adding a broader range of topics relating to the kitchen in general (but not cooking/recipe specific) and those posts have actually been the most-read ones! With that in mind, plus the fact that at this time in my life I don't always have a new recipe to share, I want to try out a different sort of post that I will call "Freestyle Fridays". 

"Freestyle Fridays", as the name suggests, will cover a wider range of topics. When I first started this blog, I was still living with my parents, but now that I'm married and in my own house, I have so many ideas for posts relating to the home. And those ideas could be anything ranging from home finances, to cleaning schedules, to hospitality, etc. So on Fridays (starting a week from today) I will write a post that is not always cooking or even kitchen specific, but whatever particular household topic I've had on my mind. I am really looking forward to these posts as well as continuing to share recipes with my readers. I am so excited about my "Freestyle Fridays" in fact, that I am currently trying to choose between 5 different ideas for the first one! Hopefully I can settle on just one idea before next Friday. ;)

Let me know your thoughts and y'all take care! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Poppyseed Dressing

Hey Y'all!

Back in the spring, I shared a simple salad recipe that I love to make for my lunches or as a side for dinner. I personally think it tastes great without adding any dressing because of the juices from the strawberries combined with the creaminess of the bleu cheese. However, I know some people just can't have salad without dressing so I am sharing the perfect dressing to go on this salad. My mother-in-law shared this recipe with me and I think it may have originally accompanied a Longaberger dish. It's a very simple poppy seed dressing with just the right amount of sweetness. You'll probably want to make half the recipe unless you're serving a large crowd as it makes a lot!

Poppy-seed Dressing

3/4 c. sugar (pulse in food processor a few times so the sugar is fine & blends easily into the dressing)
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. finely chopped onion 

Add slowly to the above:
1 c. vegetable oil 
1 1/2 tbsp. poppy seeds

Make dressing 3 hours ahead in small pitcher/jar and refrigerate. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

"As American as Apple Pie"

Hey Y'all!

I wanted to share with my blog readers an exciting thing that happened on July 4th! I live close to a small town that I absolutely love - it is like the quintessential small town of America - and this town hosts a big 4th of July event each year. One of the  main highlights of this event is their "All-American Apple Pie Competition". I actually heard about this competition for the first time this year and decided to enter the competition what with my obsession with love of pies and all. Soooo, I thought long and hard about how to make this pie really stand out as well as how to give it a patriotic spin. I was talking about it with my husband/cooking adviser and he suggested I paint the pie crust (with food coloring of course). My initial reaction was, "No way! Who paints pie crust??". But, the idea kept nagging at me so much that finally I decided to Google it and see if anything came up. Whaddya know?! People actually do paint their pie crusts sometimes - even Martha Stewart!*laughs* I decided if I really wanted to make my pie stand out, this would be the way to go. Small town pie bakers tend to be good at this sort of thing (at least in my mind, anyway) so I didn't want to compete on taste alone. 

The night before the competition I made the pie and ever so carefully painted the pie crust. I anxiously placed it in the oven, checking every 5 minutes to make sure the food coloring didn't start to burn before the pie was baked all the way. It turned out beautiful - I was pretty pleased with the result! :) And apparently the judges were too because the next day my pie won the "Most Patriotic" category of the competition! It was a great 4th! :)




Friday, July 10, 2015

Weekend Reading

It's Friday! I'm so glad the weekend is here & am more than ready for some rest & relaxation. Speaking of r&r, check out this article in your downtime this weekend. It really breaks down the different categories of the classic American pies & I enjoyed the read.

Happy weekend, y'all! :)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Products I Love: OXO Cookie Scoop

Hey Y'all!

Some time back I mentioned that I would like to start doing product reviews periodically since I don't always have new recipes to post each week. Today, I bring you my very first product review!

I love baking cookies (who doesn't?) and my perfectionist side has always been a wee bit paranoid about making sure they're all the same size. A couple of years ago for Christmas though, I received an OXO cookie scoop and making cookies shaped nice became ridiculously easy. Every cookie was the same size and no more messy fingers from scooping dough off of a spoon and onto the cookie sheet. (Not that getting cookie dough all over your fingers is a bad thing.;)) 

These scoops are so handy - and not just for cookies as the name implies! The large size is great for scooping chicken/tuna salad. The medium size is perfect for meatballs. And I like to use the smaller size to put small scoops of ice cream on a brownie for a decorative touch or to stack "perfect" scoops on an ice cream cone. 

I have held cookie scoops from a few other brands just to get a feel for them and compare and I can honestly tell you these have the most comfortable grip. The rubber grips help your hand not to get worn out if you're scooping large amounts of cookies. They also are very sturdy and feel like they will hold up for quite a few years to come. Not to mention my favorite part - they are dishwasher safe! :)

This is a kitchen tool that I would definitely recommend having. I wouldn't say it's necessary to have it in every size, but the medium (1.5 tbsp) scoop would be perfect for most of the foods you would use it with in your kitchen. However, the small (2 tsp) scoop is great for bite size cookies and delicate scoops of ice cream to fancy a dessert up. And the large(3 tbsp) scoop is really handy for jumbo chocolate chip cookies (yum!) or chicken/tuna salad.

If you have one or if you have a cookie scoop from another brand, let me know your thoughts! And if you don't have one, put it on your wishlist! :)

*Disclaimer: The blogger is not being paid to review these products. Any brand names reviewed were chosen by the blogger for her own purposes.*

Monday, July 6, 2015

Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Hey Y'all!

Can you believe it's already July??? I feel like the summer is already halfway over & just going way too fast! 

With the start of a new month I went grocery shopping last week & stocked my kitchen with all of the food we will be needing for the next two weeks. While preparing to go to the grocery store, I got an idea to write a post about how I grocery shop on a budget. As much as I love to cook, I HAVE to go into the store fully prepared or else I'll get way too excited and get way too many ideas and just buy way too much food! ;) 

I happen to love grocery shopping and I really enjoy the challenge of using cash only and having to stay under a set dollar amount. (I won't share the exact amount, but it is a good portion under $100.) When I first got married I was so excited about buying groceries and making delicious meals that I overspent on several grocery trips (by a nice chunk too) and unfortunately wasted some food since I had bought more than two people could eat before it went bad! It didn't take me long to learn my lesson. I've learned that there are two key things when shopping on a budget: 1 - a meal plan & 2 - a detailed list. 

I go grocery shopping every two weeks when I get my paycheck. During the two weeks, I keep a list on the fridge that I add regularly used items to as we run out of them. Also, during that time I begin jotting down meal ideas. I like to make sure I have enough meals to cover 14-16 suppers, taking into consideration any nights that we will not be eating at home (i.e. family dinners, date night, etc.). I use a lot of "old trusty" recipes, but I also like to look through cookbooks & websites to find new recipes to try. It's also helpful to take a look at what's already in your pantry and "build" meals with that. My meal planning system is far from fancy and once I've chosen the meals we'll be eating for the next two weeks my "menu plan" usually looks something like this:

As I said, not fancy. ;)
Also, we have sides/veggies with the meals, but they're usually basic, so I don't bother writing them into my meal plan, I just add them to my grocery list if they're not already in the pantry/fridge.

Once I've gotten my list of meals and my list of items we have run out of, I start compiling my grocery list. I like to separate items based on what part of the store they are located in so that I don't end up going in circles and wasting time. My grocery list always looks like this. :)

I keep it on a clipboard while shopping as it's easier to jot down prices beside each item when I have something hard to write on. Plus, I can take in the whole list at once instead of having to unfold and then refold every time I want to skim the whole list. 

**Side-note: On the backside of my grocery list, I have two more categories - "toiletries" & "household" items. I buy them on the same day as my groceries, however I have separate cash envelopes that I use for them.**

One more thing I like to take advantage of in order to stay on my budget is coupons. I'm not a crazy coupon lady or anything, but I do like to use them if they are for an item that is already on my grocery list. If you have a Kroger card, they will periodically send you coupons based on items you regularly buy at the store. I had 5 good ones I was able to use this past time which you will see below. Some of the items were completely free! :)

Finally, armed with my grocery list, coupons, pen, cash envelopes, & calculator I head to the store! I use the calculator to add up my items at the end and make sure I am within my budget. If not, some items have to go back.

This might seem time-consuming and overwhelming, but actually making my meal plan & list from start to finish takes maybe an hour of my time spread out over two weeks. And once I'm at the store, my list is so detailed, I'm in and out in about 30 -45 minutes. By taking just a portion of my time I'm able to stay within my budget every time and never feel like money is tight because I've overspent at the grocery store. Also, since I only plan for enough meals to last two weeks, we're not wasting food anymore. It makes me feel so much better and it makes grocery shopping a breeze rather than a chore! And I kept the $ amount for the groceries far enough under my budget this time around that I was able to "splurge" and buy some yummy ice cream that I originally didn't think we'd have enough $ leftover for! :)

Here are the groceries + toiletries + household items I bought this time:

I split my shopping between two stores this time. These are the items I was able to get at Kroger with my coupons.