Saturday, February 21, 2009

my version of the knorr spinach dip

after the horrible incident with tgi friday's frozen dip, i got to thinking about my favorite homemade spinach dip. i never had knorr spinach dip as a kid, but as an adult it was a regular office favorite. my first thanksgiving away from my family, i went to a friend's family thanksgiving. as a tradition, they have the dip as an appetizer while cooking the actual meal. i started making it after i too got hooked. its always a hit especially for a last minute i forget i need to bring something to a gathering go to. i can't tell you how many times i have picked up the ingredients on the way to work.

my version of knorr spinach dip

one loaf of hawaiian bread
one package of knorr vegetable recipe mix or generic brand substitute(i often use giant's version.)
1 16 oz container of light or fat free sour cream
1 10oz package of frozen spinach thawed a squeezed dry to remove as much liquid as possible

i always omit the mayo to try and cut out some calories and water chesnuts to save money (and because they didn't have it the store one time and i found it still tasted fine). if you're in a hurry like i often was, you can thaw the spinach in a microwave. mix the knorr mix into the sour cream in the sour cream container. you cut out a bowl in the hawaiian loaf. this is where you will serve the dip from. the part you cut out gets cut into cubes to be used to dip into the dip. scoop the sour cream mix into the bowl made from the hawaiian bread which so conveniently comes in an aluminum plate just fine for serving. then, mix the spinach into the sour cream mix. this also makes it perfect for a last minute food since you don't need any extra dishes for mixing the dip. i must admit though, the dip does taste even better when it sits overnight.

here's the original version listed on most knorr vegetable recipe mix package(aren't you proud of me i finally figured out how to do hyperlinks)

Friday, February 20, 2009

lemon chess pie

i know i talked about making chess pie for president's day, but as i figured i still was reeling from my cupcake buzz from valentine's day. i thought that i would make it for george washington's birthday on the 22nd. after talking about chess pie at work, one of my managers absolutely was dying for me to make some lemon chess pie. unfortunately, he leaves for vacation by then. so, i realized i would have to make it tonight for him to have some. i was still a little trepidatious about making the pie since pie crusts scare me. i've made them but i try to avoid them. they are the bane of my baking life. i have an inability to make the edging of my crust pretty which saddens me terribly. so, i started making soup in my crockpot and dyeing my hair in an attempt to put off the inevitable.
after reading through several recipes online, i decided on this recipe since it appeared to be the simplest i could find. i left out the lemon rind and used a homemade pie crust. i found in my oven that it needed more time a good 20 minutes more to bake in my oven though. the top of the pie appears candy like with its hard crunchy texture not entirely surprising considering how much sugar is in the filling. i am in love with the pastel yellow color though. i apologize for the crushed top where my boyfriend in an attempt to be helpful full force shoved a knife in there to check for doneness since he wanted to use the oven. it does surprise me that the this recipe was written with the experience baker in mind in some ways. if anyone decides to try this recipe, remember to temper in the melted butter meaning to slowly add a bit of the rest of the filling to the melted butter til the temperature is down some and you can add it to the filling. otherwise, you may end up with scrambled eggs.
as for the crust, i tried this recipe for the crust i pulled off a bit from the side of the pie, and it is light and flaky as promised. still, i stink at making a pretty egding without tearing my crust.
here's my finished product:
a closeup of the pale yellow color
finally, all packed up and ready to take to work tomorrow. yes, i have a plethora of specialized carrying cases.
edited after serving the pie. this pie is super rich, so i ended up cutting it into twelths for serving. it was such a hit that one of my friends has requested it instead of cake for his birthday.

today's free stuff 2/20/09

free ile de france cheese for bloggers
free cajun fried green beans at tgi fridays on feb 24th must sign up by feb 22nd
free liz lange health journal
free jianchi tote bag only in tn, nc, ga, sc, and al
free selsun blue sample
free 20 4x6 prints from walgreens today only!FycUowT/RRQFBgIAAAAGCgFICgg0MTA2ODQ3MAoKMTIxNTEzMTcyNAkAGyYmCgkzNjEzNDE4NjIF?
free baby blanket and stuffed animal
free subscription to website magazine

Thursday, February 19, 2009

making your own envelopes

i like making my own cards whether it be for holidays or mailing letters via snail mail. so, i decided i needed to make envelopes to go along with them or even just for sending letters on store bought stationery as a special touch. it's probably one of the easiest crafts i've ever done. i start by taking an envelope i already have that is the size i want and open it up all the sides either with a butter knife or letter opener. once it is laid out flat, i use it as the pattern on the the paper i want to make the envelope from. i trace around the envelope onto the paper. then, remove the pattern and cut. i fold all 4 flaps. i take the two side flaps and glue them down to the bottom flap. when i am ready to send the card or letter, i use a sticker to close the final flap or glue it down with my handy glue stick. the options for paper to recycle into envelopes are endless. this first envelope was made with a paper bag i got from a specialty store. one of the flat long ones usually used to sell stationery or books. here is one made from the comics. i think these are cute for kids birthdays. when i taught high school, i often had paper left over when i made bulletin boards. the paper we used is especially sturdy and perfect for envelopes. my mom has saved some for me as well. here are some of the ones i still have.
i also find brown paper grocery bags work well both for making cards and envelopes. i don't have any envelopes right now, but here is a card i made from a grocery bag and stamped with a grape leaf painted with some yellow paint.
another great source for paper is wrapping paper and a good way to recycle it once you've opened the present.

leftover broccoli and brussel sprout soup

we love frozen broccoli and brussel sprouts during the winter as add ins to mac and cheese or just sauteed with some olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper as a side. these days produce is so ridiculously high that as much as i'd like to use fresh veggies, frozen veggies save us some money. unfortunately, for some reason, my boyfriend tends to leave just a few in the bag and then open a whole new bag whenever we need more. this has left us with quite a few almost empty bags of brussel sprouts and broccoli in our freezer.

with the lowering temperatures, i've been craving soup. so, i decided to scavenge through our freezer and pantry to see what i had to create soup. i had some cheddar soup base perfect since i love broccoli cheddar soup. what i made was so easy and a good way to use up some leftovers that i thought i'd share it.
my leftover broccoli and brussel sprout soup

leftover frozen broccoli and brussel sprouts
red pepper flakes
bacon bits(they are made with soy, so they are vegetarian.)
cream cheese soup base
water or vegetable soup broth
butter or marjarine
minced garlic

i took the leftover frozen veggies and placed them still frozen into the bottom of my crock pot.
next, i added a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.
my attempt at a picture of me adding a few pinches of salt, and when i discovered how difficult it is to take a picture with one hand while adding ingredients with the other.
now, you can see i ground in some black pepper.
i added several pats of butter approxiamately 2 tablespoons and a spoonful of minced garlic.i added enough water to cover the vegetables, but you could also use some vegetable stock(or chicken stock if you eat meat.) i allowed this mixture to cook in my crockpot on high for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables were fully cooked. i let this base cool enough to blend. its important not to blend a hot soup as some may possibly come out and scald you. i took out about 2/3 of the mixture and blended it with some of the cheddar soup base. i only use 2/3, because i want some vegetables to still be intact to make the soup chunkier.

the blended mix should look like this when pureed thoroughly.
i added this back into the crockpot with the rest of the cheddar cheese base and some bacon bits for flavor and let it simmer on low til completely cooked. do not set the crock pot to high once the cheese base has been added as this may cause the cream base to scald and curdle. even on low, keep a check on the soup regularly, stirring frequently to avoid curdling. i checked mine every 20 minutes or so.
the final product. not the prettiest color, but man is it yummy and cheap since it was made only by raiding my freezer and pantry.

today's free stuff 2/19/09

free printout coupon for 2 free tacos at jack in the box on february 24th
free stuff from the outdoor channel for dish network and direct tv subscribers
free subscriptions to soap opera digest
free sample of nikwax waterproofing for leather
2 free issues of family circle magazine
free 20 page photo book from with coupon code photobooks plus 25 free 4x6 photos for 1st time users

another reason to stop by big lots today

i stopped into big lots today just looking to see if i could get some good deals on supplies for baking. its always hit or miss when i go there, but i figured a few minutes of my time was worth it to check it out. i didn't find anything i could use for baking. but, i did find something i was searching for for my boyfriend and hadn't found anywhere til today's visit to big lots. we had heard about these on a talk radio show he listens to several months ago. he was super excited that i found them finally for him. they really do taste like fries and ketchup. while they are not at all good for you, it was an interesting treat to try.
as i was checking out, the cashier was placing a coupon in everyone who checked out's bag. the coupon is good for any big lots location and is 20% off total purchase good only on sunday, february 22nd, 2009. since big lots already has closeout prices on everything from food to furniture, an extra 20% is always useful. the cashier said they are handing them out til they run out or until sunday.

pain in the belly

i woke up earlier than i would have hoped today with a nasty pain in my tummy. i have been investigating the million and one uses for baking soda recently and thought i would try that first before using any of my usual remedies. the box recommends adding half a teaspoon of baking soda to a cup of water. the extreme salty taste of this mixture was a bit much for me though this is the same reason i can't stand alka seltzer or gatorade. sadly though, i found it gave me no relief. of course, my honey had finished off all the yogurt we had in our fridge the previous day. our 7-11, the closest convenience store, does not carry yogurt. yogurt is a stomach ache remedy my dear boyfriend introduced me to a few years ago as the active bacteria can act in lieu of the natural bacteria in your stomach which may not be working fully and be the cause of the stomach ache. i was feeling way too miserable to drive all the way to a grocery store. so, i just resorted to saltines, gingerale, and a heating pad on my tummy. it slowly lessened. but, my misery is why i haven't posted much today.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

today's free stuff 2/18/09

free weekender beauty kit
free fiber one bar sample text fiber to 467467 the text back will be in spanish saying that you will soon receive your fiber one
free subscription to successful living magazine
free sample of celtic trim

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

today's free stuff 2/17/09

free coupon printout for 1 oz pink energizing lotion at victoria's secret$FFK1g05/doc.html
free sample starbucks via ready brew
free goody's girl's barrettes
free rental from movie cube on right side of page
free sample head and shoulders shampoo

coupon swaps

i've recently seen a ton of posts online about coupons which is not surprising considering our nation's current economic situation including a post on one of my new fav blogs balancing beauty and bedlam with some neat tips about saving money on dairy products. scroll down far enough and you'll see my comment which i think is by far the longest big surprise since i seem to specialize in being verbose. so, it got me to thinking about some of my favorite coupon tips. i grew up with a mother who definitely used coupons. one trick i picked up from her is coupon swapping. our extended family would help her out by giving her coupons they would not be using and she would likely use either via in person or by mailing them to her. they included me in this when i went of to college by including coupons i could use mainly for hair dye since i am the only one in family who dyes her hair in letters. since then, i have gotten into the habit of coupon swapping with friends and coworkers. i usually bring in to work coupons for baby or dog products 2 things i can't use. and, if i find a coupon i see in the paper that i really want more of, i let my friends know to see if they can save for me. the internet has now made this even better. there are several sites and forums online where people can do just that. one of my favorite websites has a section titled coupons that lists great online coupons, but also has a coupon trading site under forums for coupon trading. i also have found that craigslist and freecycle often feature people trying to pass off coupons to people who can use them.
keys to good coupon swapping:
1.start saving and clipping all the coupons you come across. if you have something to give to others, you'll be more likely to find others willing to share. now, this does not mean printing out every online coupon, you can obviously just email or tell friends about those great ones. no need to use your ink unless they don't have access to a computer.
2. let people know as specifically as possible what you are looking for especially what brands you may prefer. for instance, while i am always on the lookout for hairdye coupons, my favorite brand is garnier.
3. swap with people who have different needs than you. i have cats and can always swap with my dog owning friends.
4. find other friends who are avid coupon clippers and make it a regular part of your plans to swap. if you and some friends who clip coupons are already planning to get together recommend you bring extra coupons to share with one another. or, make it an event. have everyone bring coupons and some food. good chance to catch up while helping you save money. who wouldn't love that.
5. don't expect something for nothing. don't horde coupons you know you'll never use when someone else can use them. if you have something to give, other people will be more likely to share.
6. organize your coupons. if you organize your coupons, it will be easier to see what you don't need and can give away. balancing beauty and bedlam showed her huge coupon notebook in her post. i use a little expando that you can purchase in any dollar store and most walmarts, targets, etc. i like it because not only was it just $1, but it easily fits into any of my purses i would take with me to the grocery/drug store.additionally, i really love the color scheme of this one; cute and practical how me.

i picked the categories i most use and changed tags for some to meet my needs. i even use index cards to separate coupons within the categories ie putting the ones i know i plan on using on a trip to the store in front of the index card. you can see the cards sticking up and my unpainted nails.
7.check out online coupon trading sites. i mentioned some above, but here are more:
when using online coupon trading sites, be sure to only list a coupon on one forum that way you don't have too many people all thinking they got lucky and found what they were looking for. and, when you do agree to send a coupon to someone else, mail it asap ie that day or the next since someone is is eagerly awaiting its arrival. hey, you would want someone else to do the same for you. if you post a coupon for trade, check your emails frequently afterwards. someone may be waiting to hear back from you. basically, its a case of do unto others as you would hope they would do unto you.
8.sometimes just bringing in coupons you can share to work or friends can get the whole coupon swapping thing going.

Monday, February 16, 2009

today's free stuff 2/16/09

free sample of malcolm's gourment hot chocolate
free sample of airborne original orange
free printout for origins nighttime face cream!FebOffers/img/OriginsOffer.jpg
free sample viva paper towels
free sample of huggies baby wipes
free carefree pantiliner sample text carefree to 467467
free $20 vet visit voucher printout
free redbox video rental code good for today M7DM23
free advanced seal crest whitening strips sample and coupon
free trial pack acuvue contact lens
free pampers baby bodysuit available with 10 points. you can use these codes to get points THRIFTYMOMMYGTG, OHAMANDAAWGTG08, WELCOME2GTG0809, DONTFORGETGTG08, WELCOMEBONUS089, HAPPYHOLIDAY089, GIVE09UNICEFGTG
free book uneven lies the story of african americans in golf from tilteist
free 7 day pass to bally's gyms
free $10 coupon book from betty crocker
free sample of remifenin natural aid for menopause symptoms
free sample of playtex gentle guide tampons
free $5 dillyeo gift card

cupcake pull apart molds

i was telling my mom over the phone about my cupcake carrier and how much i love it. she recommended i check out the cupcake pull apart molds at pfaltzgraff that she had seen on her many visits to pfaltzgraff's outlet in williamsburg. i took a look at the website and have a link here: this is such a cute idea. how did i not know about this? these silicone molds make cupcakes or mini cakes that together make a larger object such as a wreath or train. what a perfectly cool idea for parties. i want so many of these. i looked at the target website my go to for shopping, and it has many of the same molds for the same price. from what i've read online, they can be a bit messy with extra frosting to make some of them look uniform. personally, i'm ok with getting some frosting on my fingers since i love finger licking good food.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

another day another shower

i have no children. it is not that i don't want children some day. but, my boyfriend and i haven't made the marriage step yet, nor are we in a position to pay for infertility treatment at this time. i do adore children, but having been told at 18 years old i may never be able to have my own children, baby showers tend to be bittersweet. i certainly felt a kinship with charlotte's character on sex in the city as she struggled with miranda's pregnancy especially the baby shower. i always feel a ton of apprehension and longing when a baby shower looms in my future. i suppose for this reason whenever a baby shower of a friend approaches i somehow get a pretty important task for the shower as a way of changing focus. in fact, i personally have hosted 2 showers. i also find it a bit vexing that the mother to be is always and i mean always younger than me in my life. this time around, i am blessed that my best friend's son is about to be a first time dad. my best friend has allowed me the honor of being in charge of the baby shower games. we originally discussed this last friday. i looked stuff online and added some sites to my favorites. then, i have left it at that. when i talked to her this friday, she bugged me to send her my picks. i just keep putting it off. avoiding the pain i guess.

am i the only one who does this?

for some reason whenever i'm getting ready to go out, it always seems i'm rushed. since its winter, i haven't been spending much time wearing open toe shoes and have not had a pedicure in forever. in deciding what to wear the other night, i was just drawn to wearing my red canvas peep toe wedges with rafia wedges that i had bought with my mom new year's eve and had not yet worn. i picked them up at burlington coat factory at 80% their already super low closeout price, so they were a mere $5.99. i loved the contrasting white piping and button detail. unfortunately, its not really appropriate weather. but, with this week's warm weather, i thought i could pull them off. i made this decision with a half hour left til my dear friend trav was supposed to pick me up. i could not handle going out in peep toe shoes with unpolished toes, but i was dead set i wanted to wear this fabulous shoes. check out that super cute wedge that so mimics a heel. so, i used a cheat that sadly i have used once before. i just painted my big toe and the toe directly beside it. its not like i was going to be taking off my shoes til i got home anyway. i just figured cutting out painting 2 coats on 6 toes would save me enough drying time that i would be done in time to leave. here's the way my poor toes ended up looking. i couldn't help telling my friend trav what i would done. he absolutely cracked up. but, am i really the only one who has done this?

today's free stuff 2/15/09

free redbox rental code for president's day weekend SHPNSVE2
free greenies dental chew for dog
free pet treat from pet steakopia

today's free stuff 2/14/09

free sample of salad dressing
free sample of paradise island gourment popcorn
free sample of emerson house coffee
free sample of yogi tea
free espresso sample
free lysol toilet cleaner
free bottle opener
free sample econo clean cleaner
free sample body eclipse aromatherapy shampoo
free sample aloe mask
free sample underjams diapers
free sample of prilosec
2 free ppv movies with dish network