Are You Wasting Money in the Marinade Aisle?

Are you wasting money in the marinade aisle? I was for years. I would buy those convenient envelope packets spices to mix with oil and water to create a meat marinade. The marinades were and still are usually on sale for a $1 each, giving you the illusion of thrift. But buying 3-ounce bottles of the same marinade spice is considerably cheaper. You’ll save at least $7 a pound.

Did you take home economics in high school? I did for one semester but I don’t remember much of it other than that I sewed a pair of uncomfortable knee-length Hawaiian print shorts. The following tip about avoiding $1 spice or marinade envelopes strikes me as something I might have learned in home-ec, had I retained anything.

The envelopes are $22.50 a pound or with the sale price, $15 a pound. That’s substantially more than if you buy the same spice in the bottle.

The bottles of McCormick, which are three times as much–$2.99 a bottle or $1.49 during that particular sale–are considerably less per pound: $14.08 or $7 a pound with the sale price.

Sometmes More is LEss

Perhaps some of you are thinking you could save even more by putting your own marinade spices together. And you could. But with a crazy full-time job, I know for me, sometimes the only thing standing between me and ordering takeout is the ability to quickly pour a couple tablespoons of something in a bag with a piece of meat and settle in with a glass of wine. The meat stews in its own juices while I stew in mine.

If you want to go homemade, this is one of my favorite marinades.

What’s your favorite marinade? What’s your favorite food to grill? Would you consider sharing the recipe in the comments section below?

 

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Links I Love #39 Cinco de Mayo version

Links I Love #39

Links I Love #39

Hola amigo y amiga! Como esta? Mi gusto!

And that’s all I can say. Well, I know my numbers and colors in Spanish thanks to the Williams Air Force Base Elementary School in Arizona circa 1975. I used to think our Spanish classes were de rigeur because we were going to school on a military base but now I’m thinking it must have been our southwestern locale.

Anyhoo, here’s my weekly roundup of Links I Love #39, which you should check out if you want to be prepared for Cinco De Mayo, which is fast approaching, which is next Tuesday, May 5.

Perhaps you need more than More than 95 taco recipes?
or Sweet Pulled Pork Enchiladas?
or Macho Nachos?

Don’t worry about indulging on the big day. Here are Scientific Reasons to Drink More Tequila.

Moving on from Cinco de Mayo, I just signed up for emails from the Homesick Texan. I’ve had two really great recipes from her in recent weeks thanks to a new coworker who is fun and young and from Texas. I really like her, I think she’s one of my soul sisters. If she was 20 years older or I was 20 years younger we would totally be besties. Speaking of middle-aged women being friends with 20-somethings, have you seen that new show Younger? I’m loving it and trying to catch the new episodes as soon as they come out on Hulu Plus, because that’s the only way I watch tv these days, well Hulu Plus and Netflix, because I’m no longer cable’s biatch. I can’t believe we paid for cable for so long. Loving life without it. But I digress yet again, back to the Homesick Texan.

My friend made these Spicy Chocolate Pecan Cookies, which totally reminded me of my Chocolate Cinnamon Fantasy Cookies only spicier. And, last weekend my boss had a barbecue and my new coworker brought pimento cheese, which she doctored with cilantro, which is totally something I would do. That was the best cheese dip I’ve had in years, so, so, so good. I had to be dragged away from the bowl, kidding, sort of.

Your turn! Scroll down and share with us in the comments your favorite dishes to make for Cinco de Mayo! Have you had pimento cheese?

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Cookie Love Shakes Up Dessert Tables

cookie love larger version

“Everybody has a cookie memory, whether it comes from Grandma, Nabisco, the neighbor down the street or your grade-school bake sale. My goal then and now has been to take the ordinary cookie memory and make it extraordinary.”  —Chef Mindy Segal, with Kate Leahy, Cookie Love: More Than 60 Recipes and Techniques for Turning the Ordinary into the Extraordinary with Photography by Dan Goldberg

 Shelve the cupcake tin and dust off your cookie sheets.

For too long, bakers and dessert eaters have held up the cupcake, the tart, the cheesecake as confectionery miracle while cookies have been overlooked and neglected, bouncing around lunchboxes and lingering in office break rooms.

Chef Mindy Segal, owner of Hot Chocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar in Chicago, reminds us how much there is to love about the cookie in her newly released book Cookie Love. (Ten Speed Press | Apr 07, 2015 | 296 Pages | 8 x 9 | ISBN 9781607746812.)

Segal is so passionate about cookies that she has vowed to always offer a cookie plate on her dessert menu.

The chef’s own cookie love started in childhood, much of which was spent in the kitchen–a side effect of always being grounded. She said she fell into baking because she needed a creative outlet. Segal’s parents gave her a Kitchen-Aid mixer for Hannukah when she was 13.

“While my brother practiced the piano, I performed solo in the kitchen, one off-the-cuff baking project after another.”

So, with Cookie Love you get a cookbook borne by a woman passionate about cookies from childhood, who has honed her skills and techniques with batch after batch after batch of cookies. Segal sharpened her skills in culinary school and then working in the kitchens for Chicago’s top chefs.

Caution: you’re going to have a dilemma when you pickup this book. You’re going to want to fly into your kitchen and start baking but you’ll also want to keep reading Cookie Love.

And, you won’t know which cookie to bake first.

I myself am torn. I’m tempted by the Black Sabbath, an Oreo-style sandwich cookie held together with peppermint frosting finished with melted chocolate and a peppermint brittle.

But, there are is also a recipe for heart-shaped, violet-hued Violet Hearts, which are unlike any cookie I’ve ever seen. They look like they should be part of the packaging on a fancy perfume.

The cover beauty, Jill’s Spiced Double Chocolate Cookies, with two variations, teases me too. One variation calls for a swirl of caramelized white chocolate. The second combination is of the rocky road variety with milk chocolate hazelnut bars, smoked almonds and sliced marshmallows.

But, the Toasted Coconut Spritz appeal to me because I already have the ingredients in my cupboard. But then there are Chocolate  Pretzel Shortbread cookies with Milk Chocolate Caramel and…well you get the idea.

Being of Eastern European descent, Segal has a chapter devoted just to rugelach and kolachkes, all which start with a classic cream cheese dough.

“When I developed these cookies, I opened up the floodgates and let my pastry-chef juices run free. I mad them with hot fudge and cocoa nibs, raspberries and rose sugar, blueberries and orange blossom water, pears and red wine.”

Cookie Love is user-friendly. You’ll feel like you’re sitting down with Segal and Leahy over a cup of coffee.  There’s humor and plenty of stories about Segal and her life and her experiences as a chef working under the likes of Charlie Trotter, to name just one.

The cookbook is well-organized with each chapter devoted to a specific form of cookie: drop, shortbread, sandwich, egg white, spritz and thumbprints, twice-baked, rugelach and kolachkes and bars.

Be aware that several recipes contain multiple steps, which may need to be done over a couple days.

Segal said she didn’t follow recipes when she was growing up (she was dyslexic) would look at a recipe’s list of ingredients and get busy. She encourages readers to experiment and tweak her recipes to suit their tastes. Yet, recipes are explained in the book step by step.

Beyond the recipes, Cookie Love contains lots of information, including a Basics chapter,  which includes recipes for marshmallows, toffee, jimmies, jam and preserves, hot fudge sauce and caramel sauce among others.

There are chapters at the back of the book devoted to: My Cookie Pantry, Tips of the Trade, Tools of the Trade, and Sources.

What I especially liked about this book is Segal’s understanding that not all bakers have scales in their kitchens. So she explains how to accurately measure flour and sugars using a dip and sweep method.

Cookie Love is a good value at 296 pages, packed with images of cookies in all their glory as well as the tools beyond the mixing bowl.

Do you swoon whenever you see someone arrive at an event with a tray of cookies in hand?  Do you love to eat cookies? Do you believe there should be a dozen or 101 homemade cookies in every cookie jar? Then Cookie Love is for you.

Your turn, what’s your favorite cookie? Have you been to Segal’s restaurant? Tell me in the comments. I think you already know my new favorite cookie:  Chocolate Cinnamon Fantasy Cookies.

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Shelve your cupcake pans, dust off the cookie sheets. New Cookie Love is shaking up dessert tables. Click to Tweet

For more information

(Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books for review.)

 

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What I Cooked This Week

So, green salads have been a standby this week, as they are most. While it doesn’t look very exciting, the greens were crisp and the caesar dressing tasty.

Hi guys and dolls, what’s going on today? I thought I’d post again what I managed to cook this past week. Disclaimer, it wasn’t a lot. I’m not sure what we ate but it doesn’t seem like I did a lot of cooking. It’s been a fair amount of grilled meat with green salads to balance out the protein.

I had a sous chef this week. Mr. 12 grilled burgers two nights and grilled chicken one night. His dad helps him light the grill and then we relax while he takes over. It’s working out quite nicely.

Mr. 12 manned the grill three nights last week, grilling burgers and chicken. I could get used to this.

Mr. 12 manned the grill three nights last week, grilling burgers and chicken. I could get used to this.

I still had leftover shredded chicken in the freezer and corn tortillas from earlier in the month. So I made another batch of chicken enchiladas. There are two left I’m taking for lunch tomorrow. It’s a better Monday if I have a good leftover with me. How about you?

Life doesn't get much better than shredded chicken with sauce, onion and cheese wrapped up in corn tortillas, which I fried instead of my usual microwave method to soften the tortillas!

Life doesn’t get much better than shredded chicken with sauce, onion and cheese wrapped up in corn tortillas, which I fried instead of my usual microwave method to soften the tortillas!

I was home with Mr. 12 for part of the week for the schools’ April break. Maine children get more days off than children anywhere else in the U.S. I think. But I digress.

One day for lunch we had tortilla chips and nacho cheese because I’m mother of the year material :) In my defense, there were chopped bell peppers in the nacho cheese.

Nacho traditional mama’s lunch :)

What else? Oh yes, tonight’s meal, a green salad and our favorite beer can chicken, which I usually roast in the oven.

This is our favorite recipe right now. The chicken is rubbed a spicy sweet blend, butter and canola oil. Then slices of lime are stuffed under the skin. The whole bird is planted on an open can of beer and roasted for 75 minutes at 425 degrees.

Leave a comment telling me what you cooked last week or what you plan to cook this week.

Mr. 12 has track practice four days and a track meet that goes to 8 p.m. one night this week. I have a meeting another night so I foresee at least a couple BLT’s in our future.

If I had planned ahead I’d have something going in the slow cooker tomorrow morning like I did last Monday :(

Have a great week my friend!

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3 Apps to Save You Money on Groceries

3 Apps to Save on Groceries edited

Grocery prices continue to rise. My pay continues to stagnate. How about you? Because of my schedule and responsibilities, I’m limited to the amount of side work I can do. So, I’ve got to save money where I can, which most recently has been through the use of couponing apps. While I call them couponing apps, technically, they are grocery rebate apps.

My biggest success so far? I got a pound of bananas for .4 cents :) Shaw’s had bananas on sale for .29 cents a pound and I had a Checkout 51 rebate for .25 cents off bananas.

Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Snap by Groupon are three I’ve tried out so far. I can recommend all but Ibotta.

All three work basically the same way. You download them for free to your smartphone. An email address is required so they can contact you about your balance and rebate success.

Before you go to the store, open the app, and look at what rebates are available. Rebates usually change weekly. The two I use, Checkout 51 and Snap by Groupon, always have produce rebates. Who doesn’t want money back for buying onions and tomatoes?

Grocery Rebate Apps can put cash back in your wallet. I like to use them because Checkout 51 and Snap by Groupon offer me cash back on groceries  I usually buy, like produce, milk and yogurt.

Grocery Rebate Apps can put cash back in your wallet. I like to use them because Checkout 51 and Snap by Groupon offer me cash back on groceries I usually buy, like produce, milk and yogurt.

After you purchase the items, you take a photo of your receipt and press a button on your phone to upload it instantly to the app company. You get confirmation minutes later that your purchase has been approved for the rebate as well as how much money has been added to your account.

Once you reach a certain dollar amount of savings, usually $20, you can request a payout in the form of a check or a gift card.

Checkout 51 Payout is $20

 

The offers vary widely for grocery rebates from produce to pantry items to cleansers.

The offers vary widely for grocery rebates from produce to pantry items to cleansers.

Why I’m not nuts about Ibotta

I have a few reasons why I haven’t taken to Ibotta. For one, Ibotta requires you either answer a short poll or quiz or read a recipe or watch a brief video to “unlock” a rebate. None of it is time consuming but it’s a step the other apps don’t require.

You’ve also got to scan product barcodes for items you’re rebating other than produce.

But my biggest problem with Ibotta is that you’re unlocking rebates for one particular store. I can’t unlock rebates for produce at Shaw’s (Albertson’s) and then change my mind and buy the produce at Walmart and submit the receipt. That involves going through the process of unlocking those particular rebates again but for Walmart.

In contrast, Checkout 51 and Snap by Groupon, you browse offers, buy the products you want then upload your receipt. It doesn’t matter which store you’ve shopped.

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Tips:

1. You’re not restricted from using one receipt to claim rebates from multiple apps.

For example, both Checkout 51 and Snap by Groupon have had rebates for tomatoes recently. So between the two, I used the same receipt/purchase to request cash back. Instead of .25 back for a tomato–I’ll get .50 cents–which is nearly one free tomato, depending on that week’s price and what variety I’ve bought :)

2. Submit your receipt quickly, usually there’s a 48 hour deadline.

Plus, there are a limited number of rebates available. So you want to submit your receipt right away to claim the offer. Bananas are a popular rebate on both Checkout 51 and Snap. I tried to submit a rebate for bananas yesterday and all the offers had been claimed in the hour it took me to get to the store and through the checkout line! That’s not terribly common though. Usually though that’s not the case. I think bananas are one of the most popular rebates.

3. Remember, the best app is the one that is easy and convenient enough for you to use regularly.

These are just a few of a slew of couponing apps/grocery rebate apps out there. Tell me what apps you’re using or have tried? Have I given up too soon on Ibotta? Have you had Ibotta success? Let me know in the comments.

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