Monday, November 29, 2010

Handy Dandy Substitutions

With plenty of Christmas cooking coming up, you are bound to run out of something! I rarely have all of the ingredients for any given recipe, so improvising is a standard practice in my kitchen. Here are a few substitutions to save a trip out to the store:
  • Egg beaters 1/4 cup = 1 egg
  • Buttermilk= 1 Tablespoon vinegar + enough milk to make one cup. Let stand 5 min.
  • Plain yogurt for sour cream
  • Broth and wine can be substituted for each other in recipes
  • 1Tbs. cornstarch=2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 tsp. Allspice = 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger, and 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • Cracker crumbs or panko can replace bread crumbs
  • 1 cup of chicken broth= 1 cup of water + 1 bullion cube
  • 1 ounce uunsweetened chocolate= 3 Tbs. baking cocoa + 1 Tbs. shortening or oil
  • Cool Whip can replace whipped cream
  • 1 (.25oz) packet of yeast= 2 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast
And while I'm at it, here is the first of the promised Christmas cookie recipes with a handy description. Enjoy!

These cookies are so easy, yet look and taste like a fussy recipe. They are reminescent of an Almond Joy candy bar. Holy moley are these good!! Did I just drool? Yep. I think I fried the keyboard...

Chocolate and Almond Macaroons
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 (14oz.) package sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/8 tsp. salt
14 whole almonds
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I prefer dark)
  • Stir together first 4 ingredients. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto waxed or parchment paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Press an almond into top of each cookie. (Dough will be very sticky)
  • Bake at 350* for 15-17 minutes or until golden. Remove to wire racks to cool.
  • Microwave chocolate chips at high for 1 minute or until melted and smooth, stirring halfway. Transfer to a ziploc bag. Seal bag and snip off a corner and drizzle chocolate over cookies.
 Makes 2 dozen

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What's coming...

Greetings to all on this Thanksgiving Eve! I'm taking Friday off, but I'll be back on Monday. For the month of December, I'll feature a favorite tried-and-true cookie recipe each week. I promise I will not post anything complicated or finicky! Also keep your eyes peeled for a Christmas giveaway. So dig into that "yard bird" and get ready for Christmas inspirations out the wazoo- see you on the other side!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Be my guest. Or not.

Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving at your house or are a guest in someone else's, these tips will help everyone feel relaxed.

  • If you are a guest, bring a nice hostess gift. Some favorites include: wine, chocolates, a potted plant, any homemade treat, or a sampler of your homemade jams.
  • Always offer to help prepare the meal and with clean-up.
  • If you're staying overnight, bring along some food items to help out with meals. I like to bring homemade bread, granola, or muffins.
Click on the link for my favorite granola recipe:

  • If you're hosting, do as much cooking ahead as possible so that you can enjoy your guests.
  • Let guests help! No one wants to sit around and watch you work and let's face it, we all want to feel needed.
  • Ask guests about food allergies or preferences before you plan the menu.
  • If you're serving wine that a guest has brought, use a decanter at the table. This way, the guest will feel no pressure if they didn't bring a $50 bottle of wine!
  • Have conversation starters for the dinner table such as having everyone share their biggest blessing of the year or have each person update the group on what they've accomplished this year.
  • If you have the space, set out your tupperware or storage containers before the meal. That way, everyone can pitch in to help with clean-up.
  • Give your guests a key so that they can come and go as they like.
  • Don't stay up too late Thanksgiving night- you need your rest for Black Friday sales!
Here's a breakfast recipe that is a great crowd pleaser and is super quick and easy:

Easy Breakfast Casserole
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 lb. ground pork sausage
1 tsp. salt
3 slices white bread, cubed
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

  • Beat eggs lightly and add milk, mustard, and salt.
  • Brown, crumble, and drain sausage.
  • Spray a 9 x 13" baking dish with Pam.
  • Spread cubed bread in bottom of dish. Arrange sausage over bread. Sprinkle cheese over sausage. Pour egg mixture over all.
  • Bake uncovered at 350* for 45 minutes
Serves 8-10

*The best thing about this recipe is that you can assemble it the day before and store it in the fridge til' the next morning.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The finishing touch

Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Sometimes entertaining can be intimidating- especially when it comes to the cooking! Here are some helpful tips to make your food look as good as it tastes.
  • Shave a bar of chocolate with a vegetable peeler to make curls
  • Snip chives and scatter over a dip
  • Cut the top off of a pineapple and add to a fruit platter
  • Float lemon slices in lemonade or apples slices in cider
  • Brush herbs and fruit with egg white or melted corn syrup and dust with sugar for a wintry look
  • Make strawberry fans by slicing lengthwise and leaving the stem intact
  • Dust desserts with cocoa powder, cinnamon, or powdered sugar
  • Hollow out a bell pepper to hold dip
  • Use curly kale to give texture and color to cheese platters
  • Chop off the base of a bunch of celery (about 4") for a celery "flower"
  • Stay away from symmetry- no one wants to eat food that looks like it's lined up in a cafeteria!
  • Build a mountain of cheese and have grapes cascading from the top.
  • Mix up that veggie tray.
  • Make a ring out of that boring cheese ball and put jam in the center. 
  • Place pots and pans of different heights underneath the tablecloth to give your buffet table some scale. Place different dishes on top to keep things from looking flat.
  • Tuck fresh herbs into the edges of trays.
  • Most of all, get creative and have fun. If you don't like the results, don't worry- it'll get eaten anyway!

Strawberry fans

Sugared cranberries and mint (rosemary works well too)

A celery "flower"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I love eggnog flavor. I do not like eggnog itself. This recipe is for those of us on either side of the eggnog fence. I've even known loathers of the frothy brew to partake of this pie with great relish. (No, I don't mean the condiment.) Our uncle Woody doesn't even like desserts, but now lays claim to an entire eggnog pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving! So without further ado, I give you the recipe for a killer Eggnog Pumpkin Pie.
*This is so easy to make- even kids can do it!

Eggnog Pumpkin Pie

1 (15oz) can pumpkin (not pie filling, just pumpkin)
1 1/4 cup eggnog
2/3 cup sugar (You can add less if you like your pie less sweet.)
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 unbaked pie crust

Combine all and bake at 375* for 60-65 minutes or til' no longer jiggly in the center.
I like to serve this with a dollop of Cool Whip on top with rum flavoring and nutmeg mixed in!

*Here's a quick substitution for pumpkin pie spice if you need it:
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Macy's Sale

Yesterday and today, Macy's is having a sale from 7:00am-1:00pm. Their clearance is an additional 50% off and you can find 2 coupons in the newspaper for $10 off a $25 purchase. One is in the Macy's ad and the other is within the main section of Tuesday's paper. This should be a worthwhile sale since Macy's does not usually have many exclusions. I'm headed out to check it out- good luck if you do too!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deals at Gap

Gap stores are having great deals! I checked out my local Gap today and found tons of kid's clothes on clearance for $1.97-$7.97. But gets better! If you provide your email address at checkout, you get an additional 30% off your entire purchase!! Hate spam but still want the deal? Me too. Set up an email account specifically for these kinds of offers. You never have to check it if you don't want to! This way, the junk emails stay out of your personal account. Happy shopping and happy Veteran's Day to all of you who have so generously served our great country!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Golden Egg

Kroger was having a great sale yesterday. Combined with coupons and clearance, I managed to get all of this stuff for 16 cents! Buying 4 boxes of crackers may seem a bit obsessive, but I'm planning on using them in my batches of Chex Mix at Christmas. It's not too early to start buying things like this for Christmas cooking. After all, it's only 25 days away!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Black Friday...Oh the Joy!

Black Friday. For those of you who are not familiar with this term, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when stores have their biggest sales of the year. It is the pinnacle of every bargain hunter's quest for victory in a land of lame 30% off sales and the famous phrase "some exclusions may apply". (We all know this really means that the sale applies to only 2% of the merchandise!) I dream all year of this day. There is a strange mix of comradery and competition with all of the other bleary-eyed shoppers as you embark on a shopping marathon while the rest of the sensible world sleeps off their turkey dinners. Well if you're on the competitive side like me, you need to check out This site has sneak peeks on various store's Black Friday ads so that you can start planning your route now! The site is updated every day so check often.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Earrings are such a fun way to accessorize! My ears do not tolerate them and if yours are like mine, take heart! I've found some fun new ways to wear earrings. So go digging in your grandmother's jewelry box- those huge funky clip-ons are back in style!

  • Remove the post and glue to thumb tacks to add pizazz to your cork board.
  • Remove the post and glue a magnet to the back for your fridge.
  • Leave posts in and poke through a lampshade for a glam look in your teen's bedroom.
  • If it's big enough, use as a brooch
  • Remove the post and glue onto a small clip or bobby pin for your hair.
  • Snap a pair of clip-ons to your shoes.
  • Gather a long multi-chained necklace to the side with a large earring or brooch.
  • Use a hoop to connect the ends of a broken necklace.
  • Clip onto a scarf or purse.
  • Actually wear earrings as they're intended to be worn? If you lose an earring back, snip a small segment of rubber band and poke onto the post. (My aunt Mary came up with this little ingenious tip!)

Here are a few pictures of ways to wear earrings. I had to borrow a few from a neighbor, but I'll be hunting down new ones at yard sales to add to my collection.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Over The River And Through The Woods...

Whenever I travel - even if it's sending the little one overnight to Grandmama's house, packing toiletries is a breeze! I keep a small toiletry bag stocked at all times for each member of my family. Inside are toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, razors, shampoo/conditioner, Q-tips, dental floss etc. When packing to leave, I simply put each person's bag in with the luggage. Unpacking, once home is fast and painless as I just put the bags back under the bathroom sink. No shuffling involved. Of course I bought the extras to stock the bags with coupons and most were FREE so no extra investment required!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thanksgiving Deals

Turkey day is coming this month! If you are involved in charitable food donations around the holidays, now is the time to shop! You can provide all of the ingredients for a delicious Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for very little if you keep it in mind while you shop this month. Purchase items as they go on sale instead of buying them all at once and you'll save a bundle. I got started on my donations today at Kroger. Here's what I bought for $3.25: 

*Kroger is having a great sale this week so stock up!