Thursday, December 1, 2011

Peanut Butter Toffee Bars

I was flipping through the latest issue of a magazine (Family Fun, I think it's called) and found this recipe. Since James loves toffee, I thought I would try it out.

I only made a half batch of these as a tester. I'll include my measurements.

Peanut Butter Toffee Bars

1/4 c butter, softened
1/4 (plus a little more) c creamy peanut butter
3/8 c packed light brown sugar
1 egg yolk (do not double this if you double the recipe to fill a 9X13 pan)
3/4 c flour
1/4 c instant oats
1/8 t salt
1-1/2 c dark chocolate chips
1/2 c toffee baking pieces

1. Heat oven to 350°. Line a 8-inch square baking pan with foil so that it extends over the edges of the pan.

2. In a bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and egg yolk until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the flour, oats and salt and beat the mixture just until the ingredients are blended.

3. Press the mixture evenly into the bottow of the pan. Bake until the crust is golden brown, 15-20 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with the chocolate chips. Place pan back in the oven for 1 minute. Remove the pan again and spread the chocolate evenly over the crust. Sprinkle with the toffee pieces and gently press the pieces in to the chocolate layer.

5. Allow the pan to cool on a wire rack until the chocolate has set. (May take several hours.) Using the edges of the foil, lift the bars out of the pan and cut the dessert into squares. I was able to get 16 pieces out of the 8-inch pan.

These are pretty yummy. The peanut butter flavor overwhelms the toffee flavor a little, but you definitely still get the toffee crunch on top. James liked them and asked me to keep the recipe.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Great News!

We are finally back in our home after the wildfire that hit our area.  We had massive smoke damage and had to fight the insurance company (State Farm) to pay for the damages.  I am hoping to have a baking day this week to make thank you gifts for the people that helped us!  I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why I've been away.

I haven't posted for a long time. I had some health problems for awhile that we were trying to work out and then almost three weeks ago we were evacuated from our house. We live right in the middle of the area affected by the largest wildfire in TX history. We were evacuated from our home for 10 days before we were allowed back into our area. We did not lose our home thanks to God and the wonderful first responders who worked so hard to save our house. Our home is unliveable right now due to smoke damage, but we are working on that.
This pictures is what is left of the woods to the left and behind our house.
This is from the right side of our house looking from outside our fence to behind our property. You can just see how close the fire came to our house if you look inside the fence. Where the picture was taken is all burnt.

We are extremely blessed and have been surprised and awed by the generosity of others. Even though we were not one of the 1000+ people that lost structures, we have been displaced and most people have been really supportive. The only group we have had problems with is our insurance company, State Farm. We are currently in the process of fighting them to cover more than what the adjustor allotted.

I hope to start posting again soon, but need some time to work out everything with our house. God bless!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Baked Chicken Flautas

Oh my gosh, these flautas were so good!!! We were watching "Hungry Girl" on TV over the weekend and she made a recipe for baked chicken flautas that we both thought looked really good. I love flautas, but James, although he prefers other forms of Mexican food, just likes them. I didn't look the recipe up, instead I just flew by the seat of my pants and made up my own recipe.

Kat's Baked Chicken Flautas

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 t taco seasoning, divided
1 T coconut oil
1/4 c salsa (we used homemade)
1/4 - 1/3 c shredded cheddar cheese
7 corn tortillas

1. Sprinkle 1 t taco seasoning over chicken. Place chicken and oil in Crock-pot. Put in enough water to cover the bottom of the crock. I used a little more than 1/4 c. Cook on low until moist and tender. I ended up cooking mine for about 7-8 hours.

2. Remove chicken from crock and use two forks to shred the chicken. Add in salsa, cheese and taco seasoning and stir together.

3. Wrap tortillas in a damp paper towel and warm in the microwave for about 1 minute.

4. Spread 1-2 T of chicken mixture on each tortilla. Roll up each tortilla and place on a lightly oiled baking pan. Bake at 400° for about 15 minutes until crispy!

I hope you enjoy!

"Art" work

I saw some "artwork" in the most recent Family Fun magazine that I thought looked pretty cool. I thought I would give it a try. James thought that I was so artistic after looking at these, but I really just colored in boxes in patterns. It was at least fun and took up some time to do these!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Homemade corn muffin mix

I love corn bread, corn muffins, corn cakes, etc., so I was excited to see this recipe for a corn muffin mix in the latest issue of the Food Network Magazine. I changed the recipe a little so I'll include my version below.

Just in case those don't look enticing enough, here's a close-up!

These were so good with honey drizzled on top!

Corn Muffin Mix

Whisk together the following ingredients and store in an air-tight container. This is about 2.5 dozen muffins when made.

3 c white wheat flour
3/4 c succanat (or use 1 c sugar)
2 c cornmeal
1/8 c baking powder
1/2 T salt
a small dash of cinnamon

To make 1 dozen muffins, whisk 1 c milk, 2 eggs, and 4 T melted butter into 2-1/4 c muffin mix just until blended. Transfer to a greased muffin tin and bake at 400° for 15 minutes.

Oh, I hope you like these as much as we did!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Beef Barley Soup

My boss made this soup last week and I loved it. He got the recipe from and was nice enough to share it with me. I changed it up a little based on what I had in the house and how I wanted to cook it.

Beef Barley Soup

1 lb. stew beef
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
4 c beef stock
2 c water
1/2 c barley
1 c chopped carrot
1/2 c chopped celery
1 c chopped onion
1 t Italian seasoning
1 15-oz can of crushed tomatoes

1. Brown meat over medium high heat. Add salt and pepper to meat and let cook for about thirty seconds. Add one cup of stock to pan and scrape bottom of pan. Pour this mixture into a preheated crock-pot.

2. Add the rest of the beef stock, water, carrots, celery, onions, Italian seasoning and bay leaf to the crock-pot and let cook for two to three hours on low.

3. After two to three hours, add barley and tomatoes. Check the flavor of the broth to see if you need more salt or pepper. Cook for 5-7 more hours on low.

This was a pretty hearty soup and we really liked it.

Bacon-Cheese Biscuits

Last night I made a new soup recipe that I was really looking forward to: Beef and Barley. James usually gets hungry quickly after eating only soup for dinner so I was looking for something with a little filling power to add to the meal. I found the recipe for these Bacon-Cheese Biscuits in the newest Food Network Cooking magazine. They are by no means a "light" recipe, but James really liked them. He described them as "excellent". I thought they were ok, but I only really like biscuits when they are covered in jelly or honey, so I am not really the one to ask about these. I did omit a few things from the recipe, so I'll just give you what I made.

Bacon-Cheese Biscuits
4 slices bacon
2 c flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
scant t salt
6 T cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 c grated cheddar cheese
1 c buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Cook the bacon until crisp, reserving two T of bacon drippings when done cooking. Chop bacon.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chopped bacon together in a medium bowl. Cut butter into the flour mixture until it is in pea-size pieces. (I used a pastry blender, but you could use two knives or your hands.) Stir in the cheese. Add the buttermilk and reserved bacon drippings and gently mix just until moistened.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead 3-4 times. Don't overknead! Pat out to about 1/2 inch thick, then cut into biscuits using a 2 inch round cutter. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. I was able to get 9 biscuits out of this recipe.

4. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Holy Cacao Cake Balls Review

I read about this little trailer and it's products in a magazine and they made it sound really awesome. James and I had never tried cake balls before so on a whim one day we went looking for this little trailer. Holy Cacao specializes in making cake balls which are essentially made by baking a cake, tearing it up into pieces, mixing it with frosting, rolling into balls, putting a stick in the balls, and then coating in chocolate.
We tried three varieties starting with (from left to right in picture) "Diablo", "Brass", and "Velvet" cake balls. The "Diablo" is a chocolate cake mixed with ancho chile cream cheese and then covered in chocolate. "Brass" is peanut butter cookies mixed with chunky peanut butter and then milk chocolate dipped. "Velvet" is your typical red velvet cake mixed with cream cheese frosting and then covered in white chocolate.

I was not a fan of this dessert. While they all had a nice flavor, especially the "Brass" cake balls, I just didn't enjoy the mushy texture in the center. Just not my thing. The "Diablo" had a nice little kick while you were chewing but again, I just wasn't a fan of the texture. James thought they were alright but nothing special.

At $5 for 3 cake balls, I would have rather spent the money on an ice cream at Amy's Ice Cream!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Kat's Ice Cream Sandwiches

The other day I was just sitting around watching a cooking show and the host was making ice cream sandwiches. She was using a store bought mix for the cookies and some other things. I decided I needed to make my James some ice cream sandwiches (which he loves), but that I would make the cookies from scratch and use some leftover ice cream we had. Here's what I came up with:
Kat's Ice Cream Sandwiches:
1-1/8 c white wheat flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c + 1/8 c succanat (or use regular sugar)
1/4 c + 1/8 c brown sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1 egg
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
softened ice cream - any flavor you like
1. Cream sugars and butter together. Once light and fluffy, add in the egg and vanilla and stir.
2. Add in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir until almost all the flour is mixed in. Add chocolate chips and mix until you can't see flour anymore.
3. Using a standard ice cream scoop, drop cookie batter on silpat lined baking sheets. These spread and are big so don't put more than six on a pan.
4. Bake in a 375° oven for 10-12 minutes. Put on a wire rack to cool. Once cookies are cool, put them in a ziploc bag and freeze until solid.
5. Once cookies are frozen, put one scoop of softened ice cream on the bottom of one cookie and top with another. Freeze until ice cream is solid again.

I don't have a stand mixer, so I just used some arm muscle for this, but you could of course use a mixer.

These are so yummy! I accidentally forgot about the ice cream so it was a little softer than I would have liked when I made the sandwiches, but it still worked out. This recipe made 5 sandwiches (James got to one before I could include it in the picture) and one sample cookie.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So-Called "Mock KitKat Bars"

I wanted to make a snack yesterday and had been holding on to this recipe for awhile. Since I had all of the ingredients, I decided to give it a try. While it has a good "candy" flavor, I would not describe it is a KitKat bar or even a "mock" KitKat bar. The recipe is from a blog I follow called Cookie Madness.

Mock KitKat Bar Cookies

2-1/2 sleeves of Ritz Crackers
1-1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1 c sugar
3/4 c butter
1/3 c milk
1 c butterscotch chips
1 c semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 c peanut butter

1. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment or non-stick foil. Put a layer of crackers over the bottom.

2. In a HEAVY-bottomed saucepan, stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugars, butter, and milk. Turn heat to medium and bring to a boil. When mixture begins to boil, set time for 5 minutes and boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Once the 5 minutes are up, pour half the mixture over the Ritz crackers and gently spread evenly, then put another layer of crackers over the mixture. Top with the rest of the mixture, spread evenly, and top with a final layer of crackers. (Two layers of mixture, three layers of crackers.)

3. In another saucepan, combien butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, and peanut butter. Melt, over low heat, until smooth. Spread melted mix over top of crackers.

4. Let this cook at room temp for awhile and then transfer to the fridge until the chocolate sets. When set, remove from pan using parchment of foil and cut into bars.

If I make these again, I will increase the caramel mixture by a quarter to make sure I have enough to evenly spread over all the layers.

The graham cracker mixture burns very easily. I had a candy thermometer in it (essentially you are making a caramel) and after the five minutes it was just a little below soft ball stage.

CVS today 6/21

I had some ECB expiring soon, so I went in to roll them over.

I bought the purchases above in two transactions.

Total OOP = $3.32
Total saved = $21.04
ECB earned = $13.49

Pretty nice little trip. Plus the Hershey's Bliss White Chocolate bites are DELICIOUS!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kerbey Lane Review

Kerbey Lane Cafe is a local favorite in Austin, TX. We have been there once or twice a long time ago, but not in a very long time. I've always loved the eclectic, artsy vibe of Kerbey's the kind of place where most of the servers have tattoos, piercings, and there are a lot of dreds! Recently I purchased a Groupon for $7 which enabled us to get $15 worth of food, so we thought we would give it another shot.

When we first got there we were "greeted" by a rather curt, but stunningly beautiful lady. She was kind of abrupt with us at first, but it might just have been because they were coming off a rush. We were seated and started looking at the menu (which we had already perused on the web.) Our waiter showed up several minutes later, right when I started to wonder if anyone was ever going to come to our table, and took our orders for water. We decided to order an appetizer of chips, queso and salsa, pictured below.

I honestly thought this was the best part of the whole meal. The queso was so creamy and yummy. Awesome queso flavor and great texture. The salsa was a little on the sweet side, but it was still good and the chips were crispy and salty. A small order (which is what we ordered) was $5.59.
I ordered a short stack of original buttermilk pancakes. I really wanted whole-wheat pancakes, but they only have apple whole-wheat pancakes and mix the apples in early so they couldn't take them out. I thought the pancakes were okay, but they were nothing special. I am not a huge fan of hot syrup, and that is what Kerbey Lane brings to the table (we weren't really checked on by anyone so I never got to ask for cold syrup by the time I had made up my mind that was what I wanted.) The syrup did have a good flavor, just not really what I wanted or was expecting. I don't even think I ate half of the pancakes. A short stack of pancakes is $4.49.
James ordered "David's Enchiladas' with verde sauce which consisted of "three cheddarjack cheese enchiladas topped with your choice of sauce, pico de gallo, lettuce and sour cream. Served with black beans and guacamole." The black beans and guacamole were served on a different plate. James liked the flavor of the beans and guacamole. He said the enchiladas were okay, but not like he expected. They were kind of dry and not like traditional enchiladas that are covered in sauce. He said that he felt like they were trying to make the enchiladas healthy by completely covering them with a "salad." I got the feeling that he would not order these again. The David's Enchilada were priced at $7.99.
With our $15 groupon we only ended up paying $9 for the meal at the restaurant. (We tipped off the original total, and were more generous than we should have been based on the service.)
I'm not sure if we'll be going back. I think we were both a little disappointed in the meal, although it was okay.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I just wanted to give an update on my condition. We still don't know what's going on. Today I had some more blood work done, was put on a new medication, and am being referred to a cardiologist. We'll see what happens.
I do have a new restaurant review to put up in the next couple of days.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Odds and Ends

As per my challenge I've been doing a few things.

One day after work I put in a movie and worked on a piece of a decoration I want to get done for Christmas. I got a pretty large portion of it completed. Eventually it will be a snow man...kind of hard to see it now, but I actually don't have a lot left to do.

My friend Inge makes jewelry and she made me a couple of pairs of earrings that I love. I was inspired to try my hand at it. While it is pretty easy, making the little loops is harder than it would seem. I also messed up on the pair on the left...I didn't notice that there were two sizes of silver balls on the bead chain, so I'll have to fix one of them. Overall, I'm pretty happy with my first attempts.

I've also helped James paint a little bit of the outside of the house. I'm not that much of a help because I tire out so easily, but I did contribute for about an hour.

I also want to share my Staples bounty. I forgot I had some earned some rewards when the store first opened, and received an email that they were going to expire. I went with the intention of being frivolous with the rewards and just getting a bunch of whatever I wanted. However, I happened to walk down one aisle in the very back of the store that had food and paper products. My plan changed and I was able to get $25.95 worth of goods that we'll use around the house.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New challenge for myself

I have been having some health problems...undiagnosed health problems. These have been the center of my thoughts for about two months. It is very difficult to stay positive and "look on the bright side" when you have constant discomfort. In an effort to take my mind of the problems (my health insurance doesn't kick in for a month, so I'm in limbo until then), I am challenging myself to craft, bake, do a home improvement project, or do a brain-teaser puzzle every day that I am off work for at least two months. The projects can be small or big, it is more about the idea of creating and completing something. I hope this will help me keep my mind off my discomfort, at least for a little while each day. Hopefully, I'll remember to take pictures of the things I do and blog about them.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Sorry about not having any new reviews lately. We have been eating out, but we have been going to the same restaurants that I've already reviewed. We will try to branch out soon, but right now we are just in a rut.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Review: Sports Dawg

I don't have to write a long review for this one. Sports Dawg was disgusting! I got the chicken fried steak sandwich and it was a frozen patty that had been deep fried. The meal came with "fresh-made" chips...disgusting. James got a jalapeno burger...okay, but he thought the chips were gross as well. Not much else to say about this one.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Review - Snappy's Cafe & Grill, Katy, TX

We took a spur of the moment trip to Katy, TX, so that James could visit the Bass Pro Shop. After finally picking the rod and reel he wanted to purchase, we walked around the mall, and then decided to eat. We busted out the GPS looking for something that wasn't a chain and was near the mall. Snappy's Cafe & Grill popped up and it was close.

As it was spur of the moment, I don't have any camera! Snappy's was just a little local dive. Normal grease pit, but with some Greek food thrown in. I had a regular burger, James had a jalapeno cheese burger, and we split an order of fries. Nothing special with the food. Burgers were okay and the fries were your typical frozen things you can get in any burger joint, but it was okay.

I think the time to go to Snappy's might be breakfast. After ordering my burger and then seeing all the yummy breakfasts, I wish I had ordered pancakes and bacon.

While the food was just plain and uneventful, the waitstaff seemed really friendly. We could tell that there were a lot of regulars and that they were all known by name. Plus although busy, the servers were all in good moods and nice.

If we lived there, we would probably go back, but next time we visit we will try a different place.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Menu Plan

Hit CVS yesterday, but don't have the time to post the stuff. Here's what J and I planned for food this week.

Monday - Grilled chicken breasts and potatoes

Tuesday - Pizza (quick homemade meal after our run)

Wednesday - Sirloin steaks and skillet potatoes

Thursday - Turkey pitas

Friday - Gnocchi

Saturday - Black bean tacos

Sunday - Beef fajitas

Monday, April 11, 2011

L'Oreal Makeup Review

As a BzzAgent I recently received two free L'Oreal products to try out. I received full-size samples of Double Extend Eye Illuminator Mascara and the One Sweep Eye Shadow, both designed for brown eyes. I went to the L'Oreal website and read the reviews for the One Sweep Eye Shadow. I really wanted to love this product after reading all the positive reviews. The website and information provided by L'Oreal via the Bzz campaign state that the One Sweep Eye Shadow:

* Defines, colors, and highlights in one easy sweep.
* Features a one of a kind applicator designed to fit the shape of your eye.
* Coordinated shadows in natural palettes to enhance your eye color.

I loved the concept of this idea, but I did not find the statements about the application to be true. No matter how many times I tried or practiced, I could not get "one-sweep" to look good on my eyes. I found that the darkest, liner, color always ended up to look like a huge blob on my eyelid rather than an enhancement. After I used brushed to blend the colors and add extra highlighting colors, I was able to make the colors work...but it was definitely not in one sweep.

Having stated that I don't love the application process, I will state that I love the color palette. When I used brushes to apply the colors to my eyes, the results were awesome. I really felt like the colors made my eyes "pop".

Overall, I probably wouldn't purchase this product on my own without a very hefty sale, but if I could purchase it on clearance I would definitely give it a second try.

The next product I got to try was the Double Extend Eye Illuminator which the website and Bzz packets described as:

* Professionally developed to enhance and illuminate your eyes.
* Lengthens, intensifies and illuminates in two simple steps.
* Clump-free, flake and smudge resistant.
* Suitable for sensitive eyes.
* Fragrance free.

This mascara is applied in two easy steps. First the basecoat is applied and second an "illuminating" topcoat is immediately applied to the wait time necessary between the two coats. The topcoat is supposed to be infused with light-reflecting pearls to enhance your eye color.

I really like this mascara, although I question the "light-reflecting pearls" aspect of the topcoat. My lashes did seem to appear a lot longer using the basecoat (which I was extremely thankful for), but I didn't necessarily notice any "light-reflecting" aspects of the topcoat. Even though I couldn't see any appreciable results from using the topcoat, I still use it...maybe others see it?

My one problem with this product was that the length of the applicator was a little too short. I think if the length was increased I would have an easier time applying the mascara.

I would definitely purchase this mascara again and look forward to continuing to use the product.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Out of town

I've been visiting my nieces a lot lately so I haven't been baking, shopping or crafting at all. Hopefully after next weekend, I will get back to the normal routine!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

CVS and Staples on 3/27/2011

Two quick stops today. One at CVS and the other at the newly built Staples. The batteries are from Staples and we will be getting the full price of both packages ($25.98) back via the Staples Rewards program.
CVS totals:

Total OOP = Zero (used GC that I didn't pay for)

Total saved = $30.30

ECB earned = $9 (I really earned another $7, but I used it on my second transaction.)

**Also just a hint...the 3 Musketeer's Truffle Crisp is nasty and should never be eaten again! **

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Monster Marshmallow Cookies

In my effort to get back into the world of cooking and baking, I had earmarked these cookies from the April 2011 issue of Food Network Magazine. They were the winner of a marshmallow-themed contest.

I changed the recipe a little by reducing the sugar and vanilla. I also changed or excluded the topping, which was good because I actually prefer these cookies without the topping. The last change I made was to use semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate since I didn't have them on hand. The cookies are pretty good and have a really nice texture. They are huge if you follow the directions. I think I will make them smaller next time. James also liked these cookies a lot, but requested raisins in them next time. I should mention that oatmeal-raisin cookies are James' favorite. My version of the recipe (with the changes) is below the picture.

Monster Marshmallow Cookies (modified from Food Network Mag)

2 c all-purpose flour (next time I am going to sub some white wheat)
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c granulated sugar
3/4 c packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
2 t vanilla
2 c quick-cooking oats
1-1/4 c crispy rice cereal
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c coarsely chopped pecans
1 c miniature marshmallows

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line baking pan with either parchment paper or use Silpat sheets.
2. Combine the first three ingredients in a bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined.
4. Stir the oats, cereal, chocolate chips, pecans and marshmallows into dough with a wooden spoon.
5. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. These really need to be well spaced because they are big and do spread quite a bit.
6. Bake for 14 minutes (this may vary based on how your oven works.) Transfer to racks to cool.
If you want to make the topping, all I did was melt some chocolate chips and a little heavy cream together in the microwave. Once melted, I added in some very finely chopped pecans. I eyeballed all these, so I don't really have measurements.

If you try these, let me know what you think. Happy baking!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thai Pork and Noodles

I miss Chinese food. I don't get to eat it a lot anymore because MSG gives me a massive migraine, and we do not really care for the two Chinese restaurants in town. I make a mean Chicken Lo Mein, but I really want to try something different. James and I have never had Thai food and have wanted to for awhile; however, there are no local Thai restaurants, so I decided to try my own. I found this recipe in the April 2011 issue of Food Network Magazine and with a few tweaks we had a very yummy meal.

I cut the amount of pork called for in the recipe down by half (I am trying to cut down our meat intake), cut out the veggies (because I don't eat time I will include some veggies for James), cut the fish sauce down a little (James isn't a huge fan), cut down the amount of peanut oil, and used a different type of rice noodle. My version of the recipe is below the picture.

Thai Pork and Noodles

1/2 pound thin boneless pork chops, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
8 oz. rice noodles
1 c fresh cilantro
1 lime = zest and juice
2 slices peeled ginger
2 cloves garlic
3 red jalapeno peppers, seeded
2 shallots, roughly chopped
2 T fish sauce (if you like fish sauce, use 3T)
2 T lightly packed brown sugar
3 T peanut oil

1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Reserve a couple of T of noodle water before draining and rinsing with cold water.
2. In a food processor, puree the cilantro, lime zest and juice, garlic, ginger, jalapenos, shallots, fish sauce, brown sugar, and 1 T of water until smooth.
3. Heat peanut oil in large skilled over high heat. Add half the cilantro mixture and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the pork and stir-fry until no longer pink.
4. Reduce the heat to medium and add noodle water to the cilantro pork mixture and stir. Add the noodles and two more T of cilantro mixture and stir. Break out the chopsticks and enjoy!
Next time I make this, I am not going to seed all the jalapenos. I think the flavor of the dish would have been enhanced by a little more spice. We also had a little of the cilantro mixture left so we are going to use it to marinate some tuna steaks later in the week.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Menu Plan

I am struggling with the fact that I have had no desire to cook or participate in the kitchen for several months now. I'm not sure what it is, but I do need to work on improving. Thus, I am actually going to menu plan for the week, and hopefully stick to it!

Monday - Thai Pork and Noodles (new)

Tuesday - Best-ever Chicken Fajita Chowder (new)

Wednesday - Waffles or pancakes

Thursday - LO chicken enchilada soup

Friday - James will cook himself some tuna

Saturday - Black bean soup

Sunday - Sirloin and potatoes

I am also going to try a new cookie recipe called "Monster Marshmallow Cookies".

Review: Maybelline New York's SuperStay 24 2-step Lip Color

As a Bzzagent, I was recently chosen to participate in a new Bzz for Maybelline New York's new SuperStay 24 2-step Lip Color. As part of the Bzz I received 4 full-size lip colors, two of which are pictured below. The bottom color, Timeless Rose, is the color that I tried.

Maybelline's new SuperStay 24 lip color is brought to us after 5 years of research and 10 different patents. The SuperStay 24 lip colors have been developed with new micro-flex technology which allows the color to stay all day without caking, cracking, or fading. There are 30 runway-inspired colors in four shade families: Reds, Plums, Pinks, and Naturals.

SuperStay 24 is applied in two easy steps:
1. Apply the long-lasting base coat and allow to dry for about two minutes.
2. Apply the moisturizing top coat lip balm.

My past experiences with long-lasting lip color have not been favorable. Usually after applying the base coat, I felt like my lips were caked in mud and anytime I would talk, I could feel the "mud" cracking. I also felt like I constantly had to reapply the top coat lip gloss in order to not have the "cracking" feeling.

I am happy to say that I did not feel the same way after trying the Timeless Rose shade of SuperStay 24! (Sorry for the quality of the picture, I was in a poorly lit bathroom!) The color stayed on for a full 10 hours, before I removed it. I only had to reapply the lip balm one time and I never felt like my lips were cracking!

I shared the other three shade with my coworkers/friends and they loved them! Here's what they had to say:

Beka - "I love it! As long, as I used the lip balm, my lips never dried out. I even went to bed wearing it one night and it was still on in the morning...without rubbing off on my pillow case!"

Stephanie - " I love the lip color! It stayed on for a really long time without having to reapply."

Summer - "Thanks for sharing. I love the color you gave me and it lasts for a really long time. Plus, I like the lip balm it makes my lips feel soft."

So, if you are looking to try a new long lasting lip color, try Maybelline New York's SuperStay 24!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Luling Bar-B-Q Review

We took my nieces fishing today at Palmetto State Park in Luling, TX. Of course, we had to go eat BBQ for lunch since we just so happened to be in the area. My parents, the girls, and James and I all love BBQ so it was a great idea! We were originally going to go to City Market, but it was packed...huge line and absolutely no where to sit, so we went to Luling Bar-B-Q across the street. I tried to find a web page to link to, but couldn't find anything. The number is posted on the sign in the picture below, and the address is 709 E. Davis St in Luling.

We were surprised that this place wasn't packed. Don't get my wrong it was busy, and we lucked out getting a table right when we walked in, but there was not a super long line. Whew, because everyone was hungry!

Here's a picture of some of the sausage and the brisket. My dad and James picked four links of sausage, three plain and one jalapeno. The links of sausage were $1.90 each. James said the sausage had a really good flavor, but that it was on par with sausages from other restaurants. Definitely not bad, but not the absolute best either. He did really like the jalapeno sausage and preferred it to the regular. The brisket (all meats were $9 per pound) was disappointing. James said it was super dry and pretty bland. I didn't even try it because I could see how dry it was, and didn't want to be disappointed.

Here are the pork ribs. These were super moist and flavorful. I am not a BBQ purist so I really liked adding the restaurant manufactured "hot" sauce to my bites of ribs. James loved the smokey flavor and the moistness of the ribs.

Here was my meal...big surprise, yet another chopped beef sandwich. The meat was nicely flavored and moist. Nothing super special about it, but I would eat it again. I would say the sandwich I had from Black's Barbeque in Lockhart, was better, but it was not bad. They originally got my order wrong because James asked for no pickles, and when we got the sandwich it had pickles on it. Just pick off the pickles you say, but then the nasty flavor of pickle juice is leftover and I won't eat it. Thankfully James took it back and they made me another one.
Like most BBQ places, food here was "pricey". $68 bought us 3 pounds of pork ribs, 4 links of sausage, 1 pound of terrible brisket, 1 chopped beef sandwich, 1 pint each of beans and potato salad, 3 bags of chips, and five drinks. There were however a ton of leftovers for James, so they probably bought too much food.

Overall, I think we would eat here again. We enjoyed the food and the price was pretty normal for the type of food. Downside is that there isn't a lot of seating in the restaurant, but I guess space is limited in the restaurant. Another little clue...don't use the restrooms there...not the cleanest.
Happy eating!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

3/10 CVS Trip

I has some ECB expiring soon and needed to use them up. Not a good week to use up ECB, but this is what I picked up.

Total OOP = ZERO ($1.65 on GC)
Total value = $24.81
ECB earned = $8 (redeemed a raincheck worth $5)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mandola's Italian Market Review

James and I found a Mandola's Italian Market near the downtown area a couple of years ago and loved it. We were super happy when we discovered that one was going to be opening in the area of the city that we frequent. On Saturday we stopped in at the newly opened Mandola's Italian Market near the CostCo on Mopac and William Cannon for an early lunch.

Pictured above is the store front at the new area. Just a little background, James and I used to watch a cooking show on PBS that was hosted by Damian Mandola and his nephew Johnny Carrabba. Yep, that's right, they started the hugely successful Carrabba's Italian restaurants. We used to love to watch the show because the two men were so funny together. When we moved to the Austin area we discovered Carrabba's and liked that really well. However, now we can't eat there because it goes against our 2011 challenge of eating at locally owned (non-national) restaurants. We can eat at Mandola's though, because although it is a chain, all three stores are in the Austin area and owned locally.

Mandola's Italian Market is not only a restaurant, it is store, a gelateria, and a bakery. Pretty cool concept, right? I wish I would have had room after lunch for some gelato, but we were stuffed!

After ordering we sat down and waited for our food. You order at a counter, get a number and put the number on a metal post on the table. Then runners bring out the food according to your assigned number. While waiting for your food, a basket of crusty bread is brought to you. Over on the side of the restaurant is a place where you can get olive oil and spices, which James put together and brought to the table. The bread is really crusty and sometimes a little hard to chew, but it is full of flavor and worth gnawing on to eat it!

James ordered the Pugliese pizza which had a thin crust dough topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, italian sausage, pan-roasted mushrooms, and shaved red onions. I think they use a fire-oven to cook their pizzas and as you can see James' got a little crusty on the edge. Despite being a little burnt on the one edge, he loved his pizza. I had a little bite and loved the smoky flavor of the crust. James liked the blend of flavors and thought that all the flavors were balanced well. His pizza cost $10.

I ordered the same thing I order every time I go to one of these restaurants the Gnocchi al Sugo. Gnocchi, if you don't know, is a yummy little potato dumpling that is cooked much like pasta. I love gnocchi, but it is often overcooked or undercooked which either makes it mushy or doughy. Thankfully, Mandola's knows how to cook the dish because it had a perfect texture! The sauce is a blend of tomato puree, pork meat, garlic, onions and basil. You will also find some fresh mozzarella balls in the mix! Oh, I love this meal! None of the flavors are overbearing and they blend together very nicely. I like to top mine with parmesan and some crushed red pepper for a little spice. The Gnocchi al Sugo is priced at $11.

The coolest part is as we were leaving we actually ran into Damian Mandola coming in to the restaurant. He chatted with us for a couple of minutes about our meal...checking to make sure we liked it. Then he was nice enough to pose for a picture with me! I was in awe because he was like I remembered him from the cooking show...loud, jovial and friendly! It definitely made my day meeting him.

If you get a chance, you should definitely have a meal at Mandola's Italian Market. Let me know how you liked it and most importantly, don't forget to invite me!!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Giveaway winner

Congratulations to Christopher for winning the giveaway! I will send your info to Blogspark so they can send off the package!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Packsaddle Bar-be- Que Review

We used to live in San Angelo, Texas, where Packsaddle is located and we ate there at least once a week. We decided to get out of town for the weekend and headed to San Angelo, and of course we had to stop there. We used to think Packsaddle had the best BBQ and burgers; however, now that we live in the BBQ capital region of TX, we know different. Everything is still good at Packsaddle, but we don't consider it the best anymore.

Here's the front of the restaurant. I've always liked their logo, it just makes me laugh.

James decided to get the small cheeseburger with mayonnaise. He said that it still tasted good, but that he has had better since we've been testing local restaurants. As you can tell, it is served on a store-bought bun, with lettuce, a tomato and onions. James liked the tenderness of the meat.

I got the small chopped beef sandwich...I always get this when I go to Packsaddle. I still loved it, but Black's in Lockhart has a much better sandwich. I will say that I really like the BBQ sauce at Packsaddle. I like the sweeter sauces and that's how they make theirs.
Both sandwiches came with a bag of Lays since we got ours to go...for some reason I don't think we would have been welcome to dine in. It might have had something to do with the two large dogs we had with us (although Marsh and Mary were very interested in the restaurant .) Both sandwiches were $4.95 which is definitely a lot more reasonably priced compared to all the barbeque places around here.
Overall, James and I still really like and recommend Packsaddle in San Angelo and will continue to eat there when we visit.

CVS trip 2/21/22

Ok, so the picture looks ironic...all that candy and a tube of toothpaste? What can I say, they were good deals. The store lost power in the middle of my transaction, so the clerk had to manually enter some of my ECBs and give me a raincheck for the ECBs I should have earned but he was super cool about it.

Total OOP = ZERO ($1.18 on GC)
Total Value = $16.95
Total ECB earned = $4.79

Thursday, February 17, 2011

45th Pillsbury Bake-Off Prize Pack and Giveaway

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to bake. However, I am not good at coming up with my own recipes...thank goodness the lovely contestants of the Pillsbury Bake-Off exist and I can use their awesome recipes. Pillsbury, through myBlogSpark, provided me with the prize pack shown below. The prize pack included an apron with the Pillsbury Dough Boy logo, a pen, and the Pillsbury Bake-off 100 Winning Recipes cook book.

After looking at the cookbook, I have several recipes I can't wait to try, such as Maple-Bacon Breakfast Rolls, Peanut Butter Cookie Granola, Chicken-bacon Quesadillas, "Mamma Mia" Ravioli Bites, and Mile-High Peanut Butter-Brownie Pie! Oh, my mouth is watering just typing the names!

The 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off is now open for recipe entries and you could win a million dollars if you supply the winning, original recipe!

There are four categories of recipes that can be submitted:
1.) Breakfast & Brunches
2.) Entertaining Appetizers
3.) Dinner Made Easy™
4.) Sweet Treats

Entries are being accepted online between now and April 18, 2011, at You’ll also find contest details, including eligible products, prizes, how the recipes will be judged and the official rules, on the web site.

Now, here's even more good news! Pillsbury and my BlogSpark have provided me with another prize pack to giveaway! To enter please leave your name, an email address and answer one of the following questions:

1. What is your favorite Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe?


2. What Pillsbury product would you use when designing a recipe?

You'll get one extra entry for each of the following:
1. Follow my blog
2. Mention the giveaway on your facebook page.

Please leave a separate post, for each entry.

I'll leave the contest open until Wednesday, February 23.

Happy Baking/Eating to all!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mexico Lindo Review

On Friday night, James was four hours late coming home from work because he had to stay with a technician. He also had some samples to drop off at the hospital in Smithville. Once we got the samples to Smithville, we were both hungry so we decided to eat at a local Mexican food joint called Mexico Lindo.

We got there around 8:30 and there were still several groups of people at the restaurant. We sat ourselves and waited for a little while until a frazzled young waitress came to our table and asked us what we wanted. Only then did she notice that we didn't have menus or silverware and ran off to get them. A young man brought us some chips and salsa and they were awesome. Freshly cooked chips and a good salsa, full of onion and cilantro flavors with just the right spice level.

James ordered the #31 which had 2 cheese enchiladas, carne guisada, rice and beans. I don't eat enchiladas so I can't say much about them other than James liked them. The carne guisada was awesome! Melt in your mouth tender with tons of flavor. James' entire plate was cleaned at the end of the looked like he wanted to lick the plate. The beans had a smokey bacon flavor and the rice was pretty standard. His meal was $7.99.

I ordered the "H" dinner special which was a fajita burrito topped with chili con queso. I had my choice of chicken or beef and went with chicken. At first bite I didn't enjoy the queso, but after awhile I kind of started liking it. I like my queso a little spicy and I really like it to not taste like American or Velveeta cheese and at first that is what I tasted. I guess once I started enjoying the delicious chicken inside the tortilla, I started to like how the queso accented the chicken. My "H" dinner special was priced at $6.99.

The one thing I would say is to not expect the best service at this little joint. We had some communication problems with our waitress (I don't think she fully grasped the English language, and my spanish is very rusty), but it wasn't enough to ruin the experience. I didn't go in expecting a fine dining moment so James and I just enjoyed our food!

Two sodas, two meals, and a tip later we were out a total of $24! Pretty awesome price for the meal we ate. We will definitely be including this on our little Mexican food circuit and can't wait to go again. Sorry no pictures, but it was a last minute decision. Also, I can't find a website for the restaurant, but the address is posted at several review sites.

Happy eating!

2/13 CVS trip: $48.17 for ZERO OOP

Quick stop at CVS today to get some mostly free items. I bought the following items in two transactions.

Total OOP = zero ($1.34 on GC that I got for free)
ECB earned = $15.39
Total value = $48.17

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Today's CVS visit

Total OOP = ZERO ($4.33 on GC)
Total savings = $31.00
ECB earned = $6.99

Monday, February 7, 2011

Menu Plan 2/7-2/13

I've been really struggling with menu planning for several months. Either I don't even bother making one, or I make one and don't follow it. Hopefully it will get better.

Monday - Tostados using leftover taco meat and refried beans

Tuesday - Grilled chicken and baked potatoes

Wednesday - French toast using Sour Cream Vanilla Bread from Monday

Thursday - Beef empanadas

Friday - Gnocchi in tomato sauce and foccacia

Saturday - pizza

Sunday - Pork chops and skillet potatoes

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hyde Park Bar & Grill Review

We decided to visit the Hyde Park Bar & Grill restaurant in Austin on Saturday night. The restaurant is a locally-owned store that has two locations. We went to the South Austin site at West Gate Blvd. We had heard and read some really good things about the restaurant, especially about their french fries and mac & cheese. We were actually really disappointed in our meals.

James got the Kobe Beef Chopped Steak entree. His meal came with a Kobe beef chopped steak topped with cheese and mushrooms, a side of green chili cheese mashers, and a choice of one side. James picked corn and cheese tamales for his side. The steak was tender and had good flavor, but it was nothing special. He said the mashed potatoes tasted like regular mashed potatoes...he didn't really even taste the additions. The corn and cheese tamales were the best part of both our our meals. They had an awesome flavor and were actually really moist. James' meal was priced at $12.95.

I ordered the chicken fried steak with the gravy on the side. My entree came with the Hyde Park french fries and my choice of a side. I picked the macaroni and cheese for my other side. The fries are fresh cut potatoes dipped in buttermilk, fried and seasoned. I couldn't decide if I liked them or not. They were crispy and flavored okay, but they left a weird after taste/texture in my mouth. It's hard to explain. The mac & cheese had great flavor and was my favorite part of the meal, but it was served cold which was a big downer. I HATED the chicken fried steak. There was a weird coating on the steak. It was not a cracker breading or a batter coating, but more of a doughy thing surrounding a really gristley (I don't even know if that is a word, but I'm going with it) piece of meat. The breading was thick and doughy and disgusting. I ended up scraping it all off and just eating the beef. I actually enjoyed the tamales from James' plate more than anything on mine. My entree was priced at $9.95.

Another downer to our visit was our waiter. Either he was new or just having a bad day, but we spent a lot of time without water even though things weren't very busy. He also did not welcome us or show any personality at all. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and forgive him, but it is always a negative when your server doesn't help make the dining experience pleasant.

I'm pretty sure we won't ever visit the restaurant again. As usual, I'll leave you with a quote from James, "It tastes like cafeteria food, but made fresh."

Thomas Bagel Thins Review recently had a Bzz campaign for the new Thomas Bagel Thins and I was lucky enough to be chosen for it. As part of the campaign, they sent me manufacturer coupons for one free bag and several for $1 off. I've had the coupons for awhile, but only recently found the Bagel Thins at a local Walmart.

The new Thomas Bagel Thins come in four flavors and are only 110 calories each. I tried the 100% Whole Wheat Bagel Thins, but the other options are "Everything Bagels", plain, and cinnamon raisin. Check out the Thomas website or their Facebook page for more information about this new product.

I love bagels...I mean, I am a huge fan of bagels, so I was excited to try these. I have to say...I LOVED them. They had the wonderful flavor and texture of bagels, but weren't as doughy. The whole wheat flavor really shined through. It wasn't overwhelming or dry, but had the nice "nutty" flavor that whole wheat items usually have. My husband, who usually doesn't like bagels, actually expressed that he would like to try the thins after listening to me talk about them. I especially liked being able to eat a "whole" bagel, without the usual high caloric intake associated with them.

I will definitely be eating these again, but at $2.98 for 8 bagel thins, I will probably wait for a sale and coupon combo to present itself. If you have questions or want to talk to me about the Thomas Bagel Thins, leave a message.

CVS 2/5/11

Pretty good trip yesterday.

Total OOP = ZERO ( $3.54 on GC - would have been negative if we didn't pick up some sodas for the superbowl)
Total saved = $33.24

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

P. Terry's Review

I know I promised that I would get better about taking pictures, but I forgot my camera again. I had a bad day and just wanted to get out of the house. I have been wanting to try P. Terry's a restaurant chain started in Austin and owned by an Austinite, so we decided to go tonight. There are currently three stores and another two being built.

P. Terry's uses 100% Angus beef that is hormone and anti-biotic free. The produce they use is brought in fresh every day and some of the produce is even locally grown. The french fries are cut fresh every day and fried in 100% canola oil.

The MENU is pretty small. I guess they are operating on the premise of have a small number of items, but do them well.

We liked our meal alot, and we really liked the price. I got a hamburger (Plain) combo and James got a cheeseburger combo for a total of $10.12! The burgers are kind of small, that's one thing I would have liked to take a picture of...the layers of James' loaded burger. There were more vegetables than beef, but he said he thought the mix of textures and beef was good. I liked my plain burger. I thought the flavor was good and enjoyed knowing that the beef didn't have a ton of additives. I think I might try the chickent burger next time for something different! The fries are awesome though and you receive a pretty generous portion. They are thinly cut and then nicely fried. I did have to put a little salt on them, but I like my french fries salty.

Next time we go, and we will definitely be visiting again, we are each going to get a burger and then share the fries. We want to try the milkshakes!

Happy eating!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A couple of things

We've been to a couple of restaurants, but they've been spur of the moment things so I haven't had my camera. I'll try to get better, I promise.

We did grab burgers at a local place in Bastrop last night called Hula Hoops/Tommy Gunn's...I'm not sure which is the real name. Burgers came with chips and I thought they were a little too pricey, but I guess for the quality of ingredients and the restaurant being on Main Street that was to be expected. My burger which was essentially just a classic burger with only ketchup on it was $8.99. James had something called "the Leader of the Pack". It was loaded with greens, tomato, onions, some kind of cream cheese concoction, bacon and jalapenos. His burger came with chips and a jalapeno popper (jalapeno stuffed with cream cheese and sausage and then wrapped with bacon, smeared with BBQ sauce and grilled). The cost of his burger was about $11.50. We both liked the flavor of our burgers because they are smoked first and then reheated on a gas grill, but we found the texture to be really weird. The burgers kept falling apart...literally, not some weird allusion to juiciness. It was like clumps of meat were crushed together to form a burger, but never really molded into a patty. James really liked the mix of flavors on his burger, but neither one of us could finish the meal...huge burgers.

Overall we will probably not be returning to Hula Hoops/Tommy Gunn's, but it wasn't terrible.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Baking Days Update #2

After looking at available freezer space and the amount of sweets on hand this morning, I decided to not make the bagels or Mock Kit Kat Bars.

I did make muffins, waffles, granola bars, and two loaves of bread this morning...on top of doing my Monday chores.

Pumpkin Muffins/Mini-loaves - I don't eat these, but James likes to have them for quick breakfasts. I freeze them and then he defrosts them in the morning in the microwave. My Mom gave me the recipe and she got it from an issue of Diabetes Forecast. I made some changes so here's my version:

1/3 c toasted, chopped pecans
2-1/2 c flour
2 t baking soda
2 t cinnamon
1 t all-spice
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t ground cloves
2 eggs
1 egg white
1-1/2 c lightly packed brown sugar
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1/3 c skim milk
1/4 c canola oil or applesauce (I've made it both ways)
1 t vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine flour, baking soda and spices in a medium bowl.
3. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, egg white, and brown sugar. Stir until uniform and fluffy. Add the pumpkin, milk, oil (or applesauce), and vanilla.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine.
5. Fill lined muffin cups with batter and bake for about 15 minutes. You will have to watch the muffins because my oven is a little off and I had to guesstimate the time.

I was able to make 12 muffins and three mini-loaves with this recipe.

I have also substituted 1 c brown sugar and 1/2 c Splenda for the brown sugar with good results. Another substitution I sometimes use is to use 1 cup of white wheat flour for part of the total flour.

Waffles of Insane Greatness - courtesy of Finding Joy in My Kitchen. I haven't tasted these yet, they went straight into the freezer. The looked and smelled good.

Homemade Chewy Granola Bars (No Bake) - courtesy of Heavenly Homemaker. I used toasted almond slivers and mini-chocolate chips as my add-ins, but the chips melted while mixing so we'll see what happens. These are cooling in the fridge so I haven't tasted them yet.

One loaf of Cinnamon Swirl bread and one loaf of Honey Whole Wheat Bread - both recipes from Heavenly Homemaker. These were easy to make, but like most breads a little time consuming. I just planned the rest of my baking around the rising and baking times.
Not bad for a couple of hours worth of work.

2011 Challenge = Support Local Eateries

Read about our 2011 Challenge here.