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.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Baking day update

I decided to make it "Baking Days" instead of one baking day. Yesterday I made the Peanut Butter Candy Bars pictured below. I froze most of them for future snacking opportunities. I would post the recipe, except I don't remember where I got it from so I can't give that person or magazine credit. I don't like to post recipes if I can't give proper credit. If you'd like the recipe, leave me a message with your email address and I'll send it to you.

Today I made pizza shells, calzones, and whole wheat English muffins. Most of these will go in the freezer as well for future meals.

Now I have four marked four things of my baking list for tomorrow!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Monday = Baking Day

I am gearing up for a massive baking day on Monday. I will be stuck in the house waiting for a delivery, so I might as well make use of my time. Here's what I am planning on baking:

Granola Bars

Pizza shells and Calzones = FINISHED

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Cinnamon Swirl Bread


English Muffins = FINISHED

Waffles (double batch)

Cheese-stuffed Breadsticks

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin Muffins

Peanut Butter Caramel Bars = FINISHED

Mock Kit Kat Bars

I will hopefully have some time tomorrow to start on a few of these items, otherwise I will shorten the list some for Monday.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Quick CVS Trip

Needed some mascara so I thought I would take advantage of earning some ECB.

Total OOP = ZERO ($6.58 on GC which was a gift)
Total saved = $22.97

Monday, January 17, 2011

Casa Chapala Review

We had never heard of Casa Chapala, until a Groupon deal was offered. $30 worth of Mexican fare for $15 was what we purchased through Groupon. We didn't know when we were going to use it, but then along came Saturday...cold, rainy and gloomy. You have to love spicy Mexican food on days like that!

Casa Chapala is owned by the Barragon Cortez Family and was established in 1987. We really didn't have any expectations of the restaurant since we had never been there before, although one of James' colleagues had told him good things about the restaurant.

There are two locations and we visited the one on W. Anderson Lane in North Austin. It is kind of tucked into a corner of a strip mall. The outside of the building is pictured above.

Our waiter Abel (who by the way you should absolutely request...he was awesome! Super knowledgeable, attentive, and helpful) sat us at our booth, as per our request. The menus were supplied in these huge leather binders that James is modeling for you.

One of the coolest things about Casa Chapala is that your server actually makes your salsa at your table according to your taste preferences. James and I have visited a ton of Mexican food establishments and this is the first place I had ever visited with this practice. I love super spicy salsa, so with James agreement (sometimes spicy stuff doesn't agree with him) and Abel's recommendation, we went with super spicy. He mixed pureed tomato with about 1/2 teaspoon of garlic/salt/pepper mixture and a heaping tablespoon of some kind of fried, crumbled pepper pieces together to make a beautifully spicy concoction. This wasn't your typical burn-your-mouth spicy salsa though, it was almost a smoky flavored salsa. Different than what we were used to, but we both still really enjoyed it.

For his meal James picked the Enchiladas Astlan which were described as:

"These enchiladas are stacked, rather than rolled. The first layer is topped with black beans and pico de gallo, then layered with your choice of meat, green salsa and topped with melted cheese and a dollop of sour cream."

For his choice of meat he picked shredded beef, the other two choices were spicy chicken or ground beef. He also had his choice of refried, Charro or black beans of which he chose Charro. His meal is pictured at the top of the food picture and he LOVED it! He thought the flavor and texture was awesome and also enjoyed the beans and rice.

I chose chicken fajitas for one. Usually these would be served on a hot plate, but because I don't eat vegetables (usually these are served with green and red bell peppers, onions and mushrooms) the cooks put my chicken on a regular plate so it wouldn't burn. I opted for black beans. My fajitas were very good and nicely flavored. Nothing really different about them from other places, except they thankfully weren't swimming in oil or butter. The only downside to me meal were the black beans. While nicely flavored, they were not whole beans instead it was almost like a soup. I would have preferred whole beans, but it wasn't enough to make me not enjoy my meal. Next time we go back, and we will be going back, I think I am going to try the cabrito (for you non-Spanish speaking people that means goat!)

And then came dessert. We had several choices but opted for the very traditional sopapillas. These were just plain delicious!

As you might be able to tell from the background of some of the pictures, the decor was very traditional Mexican fare...brightly painted walls adorned with dresses, blankets, hats, and metal wall hangings. Even the waiters and waitresses wore "traditional" Mexican clothes which definitely added to the feel of the restaurant.

Casa Chapala is a little more expensive than what we are used to in our small town, but it was definitely worth it. Our meal total was $34.72 with tax, but after our Groupon deal we paid $4.87 at the restaurant (we had already paid $15 to Groupon). This total did not include a tip, which I am not going to share because I am an over-tipper, but I will say that Abel did an excellent job and deserved the entire tip!

We can't wait to visit Casa Chapala again and hope to see our local friends there!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Menu Plan 1/10-1/16

I have finally gotten back to meal planning. Here's what we are planning on eating this week:

Monday - Baked Potato Soup

Tuesday - Pizza

Wednesday - Crockpot roast beef and baked potatoes

Thursday - BBQ beef sandwiches and mac & cheese

Friday - Chicken fajitas

Saturday - waffles

Sunday - hamburgers and chips

My Gatorade deal

Quick stop at CVS today to get some Gatorade and Superbowl snacks. We also bought a Snickers Almond (buy for $0.89, get $0.89 ECB back), but that didn't make it home for the picture. The rest of the items were buy $20 get a $10 ECB back.

Total OOP = ZERO ($5.20 on GC)
Total saved = $39.03
ECB earned = $10.89 total

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Thundercloud Subs Review

We have run the Turkey Trot in Austin on Thanksgiving almost every year if James wasn't working since moving here. On the back of our race numbers there is always a coupon for a Buy One Get One (B1G1) sandwich at Thundercloud Subs, a major sponsor of the run. This year we actually kept the coupons and today used one for the first visit ever.

Thundercloud Subs is a locally owned and started company in Austin and thus is a restaurant that we are able to eat at in accordance with our 2011 Challenge. They claim to slice all their meats and cheese fresh, make their own sauces, and have bread made and delivered fresh daily.

James and I both picked hot sandwiches to try today.

James had what was listed on the menu as a Hot Roast Beef Sandwich, but was called a Philly sandwich on the receipt. There were two sizes to choose from and he picked small. He said that the sandwich tasted fine and had good flavor, but wasn't anything exceptional. He did like that everything seemed to be hot and fresh.

I ordered the small Meatball Sub. I had my choice of American or Provolone cheese - Provolone, of course! I also had the choice of white or wheat bread. I opted for the wheat bread. The sandwich was made of two huge meatballs, Provolone cheese, marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese on the wheat roll. It was an okay sandwich. I really liked the bread, it was soft and very flavorful. The marinara sauce had a nice blend of flavors and textures. I did not like the meatballs much. I would have preferred several smaller, easier to eat, meatballs. I also didn't like the texture of the meatballs. They didn't taste homemade, but instead tasted like something bought from Ben E. Keith.
We both had small drinks which were $1.59 each. James sandwich was $4.69 and mine was $3.49. Our total was $8.52 after our B1G1 coupon.

The decor of the restaurant was mostly made up of clean lines and art depicted local Austin features. It was very clean and comfortable. The music was played a little too loud for my taste but it wasn't enough to ruin my experience. It did seem fairly busy as a steady stream of customers came in while we were eating.

After talking about it James and I decided that it was an okay meal but if we didn't have another B1G1 coupon available to us, we probably would not go back. Next time we will try some of the cold cut sandwiches to see if we like the options better.

Quick 2010 Reading Review

I am a complete nerd. Just going to preface that before telling you that I keep track of the number of books and magazines I read each year. I just like to see the totals. I will tell you that the numbers went way down this year because I've worked more and spent more time on the computer (BAD!)

Total # of books read = 85

Total # of magazines read = 115

Paper towels and laundry soap

While we have cut back on our paper towel usage, we do still use them for little messes. We just opened our last roll the other day and I wondered how long I would have to wait for a sale. Not long apparently,

Total OOP = ZERO (on GC = $8.35)
Total saved via ECB, MQ, sales = $40.51
Total ECB earned = $11

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Black's Barbecue Review

We visited with my parents and nieces today and decided to try Black's Barbecue in Lockhart. Black's is often listed on the "Best of Texas BBQ" lists and Lockhart is considered the BBQ capital of TX. Today was the first time we had ever eaten at Black's.

The restaurant itself is on one of the streets in old downtown Lockhart. We went early, so there was still a ton of parking, but I could see how during busy times parking might be a challenge. When you first walk in, you are funneled immediately into a line. You are given plates to choose your sides, of which there were a ton and told how the process works. Basically it is like most BBQ joints, each side has an individual price and you buy the meat by the pound.

This was James' first plate. He choose beans, potato salad, a pickle, and a jalapeno as his sides. The pork spare ribs were purchased by the pound and then split up between all of us. James loved the ribs. They were super tender and pulled off the bone very easily. My 3 and 2 year old nieces were able to eat the ribs because they were so tender. He also said the potato salad had good flavor and texture. The beans were awesome! I had some as well and I thought the flavor and texture were both exceptional.

Just thought I would give you a peek at the blissful look James had while eating. This look alternated with one of complete focus on the food.

Here's my plate. I opted for the chopped beef sandwich with Black's BBQ sauce (no pickles and no onions for me, but they usually are included on the sandwiches), macaroni and cheese, and beans. The sandwich was one of the best chopped beef sandwiches I have ever eaten. It did not drip grease or have a lot of fat in it and they gave a generous portion of meat in the bun. The sauce was a perfect complement to the meat. The one downer to the meal was the macaroni and cheese. It was bland and not hot at all. Even salt didn't help the flavor of the mac!

Here's how the meat was served. My dad and James choose to get three types of sausage (original, garlic, and jalapeno), pork spareribs (beef ribs and jumbo beef ribs were the other rib choices) and brisket. James liked all of the meat although he felt that the brisket was a little dry. As far as flavor went, he said that the meat had the perfect balance of spices and smoke.

Like most BBQ joints, the meal was fairly pricey, but the flavor more than made up for it. I wasn't around when my dad paid the bill, so I'm not sure what the total was. I know the sides were about $1.50 each, the ribs and brisket varied in price from $10.98-$11.98 a pound depending on the type, the sausages were $2.19 per link, and the chopped beef sandwiches were $3.89 each. The link at the top of the review will take you to Black's website where you can peruse the other choices and prices that they offer.

The atmosphere of the restaurant is much like all the other BBQ joints...long tables, sauce on the table, wood walls, concrete floors, etc. Everything was very clean though which was nice. Missing was the stink of the smoker because I think they do their smoking outside or in another building that is separated from the dining area - this was a definite plus for me.

We will definitely go back to Black's for another meal. I'll leave you with James' most memorable comment, "I think I have found my new favorite place to eat."

2011 Challenge

We started thinking about our 2011 Challenge a couple of months ago. We tossed around several monetary ideas, but decided to try something new. As previously discussed in the 2010 Challenge Review, we love to eat is our only vice. We wondered if we could still eat out, but challenge ourselves in some way.

For 2011, we will support the local businesses and eat at only locally owned eateries. Here are the caveats:

1.) The restaurants we eat at CANNOT be a national franchise. This means restaurants such as Carino's, Taco Bell (yes, that one is going to hurt me), Fuddrucker's, Carl's Jr., Red Robin, Fire Bowl Cafe, Culver's, Chili's, etc., are out.

2.) We can eat at local franchises. Local to either our city, the major city we are near, any city in the state, or any franchise/chain that was started in Texas, and is still only a mostly Texas-based restaurant. For example, Rosa's Cafe and Tortilla Factory started in San Angelo, Texas and has spread to several areas of the state.

3.) If we are given a gift card for a franchise we will allow ourselves to use it.

4.) While we will express our challenge to our friends and families, we will not impose our challenge on others. If our friends or families choose the restaurants, we will go wherever they choose.

5.) We are allowed to eat anywhere on vacations or trips, but will try to eat locally if we have ample time to do research.

There it is, our 2011 Challenge. We are excited about the possibilities! I will try to blog about each of the restaurants we support. We'll keep you updated on how we do!

** We do have a budget for both groceries and eating out, but the focus of the 2011 Challenge is on where we spend our money, not what we spend it on. **

2011 Challenge = Support Local Eateries

Read about our 2011 Challenge here.