food porn: turkey flatbread wrap

Thrifty Tuesday is on hiatus again this week.

I’m making it up to you with some Food Porn.

Here’s one of my favorite sandwiches.  Even my little people concur that this is one good sammy.

sandwich

 

Pepper Smoked Turkey Wrap, AfroMartha – Style.

Suggested Ingredients: feel free to omit or substitute to your taste

Pepper Smoked Turkey from the deli

Avocado

Vine Ripened Tomato

Mixed Greens (I use the Organic Herb Mix from Wal-Mart)

Seasoned Rice Vinegar

EVOO

Coarse Salt

Garlic Naan bread (the kind from the Wal-Mart bakery works the best!) You can also substitute Pita Bread, tortilla or any other flat bread.

Suggested Method:

Cut up the veggies and the turkey julienne-style and toss together in a bowl.

Lightly toast the Naan bread in a toaster oven or oven (about 3 mins on 300 deg). This makes the bread soft and squishy. This is crucial to the scrumdeeli-umptiousness of your sandwich

Scoop the turkey and veggie mixture onto the Naan Bread. Drizzle lightly w/the vinegar and EVOO and lightly sprinkle with coarse salt.

Fold over and try to make it to the table before inhaling your feast.

Bon Apetit.

Make Oatmeal in a Coffee Maker?

So apparently you can now make Oatmeal in your coffee maker. I think the better question is ‘why would you want to?’. Surely there have to be simpler more sensible ways to do this. Well, if that’s what floats your boat, head on over to try it out.

Or you could do it the old fashioned way.

My kids LOVE oatmeal so I faithfully get up every morning and cook them rolled oats for breakfast.  The Mister, no matter how detailed my instructions, botches it every time. He even botches the little oatmeal packets! Seriously, who can mess that up? If I have to leave before breakfast, I measure everything out before I leave, (yeah, I have control issues).

Here’s my usual recipe:

1 1/2 Cups rolled oats
2 1/2 Cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 C + 2Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 Cup Milk
pat of Butter for each bowl.

Combine first three ingredients in a pot. Cover the pot and cook over very low heat, until cooked (approximately 10mins) Do not stir while cooking.
When oatmeal is cooked add the brown sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and milk and stir together. Scoop into bowls and top with pats of butter.
Makes 3 large servings or 4 smaller ones.

If cooking it from scratch is not your style, LifeHacker has this totally cool food hack. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m totally going to! Well, if The Mister will let me put Oatmeal in his precious coffeemaker, that is.

Head over there to get this fun little tute!

Image Courtesy of LifeHacker

Make Oatmeal in a Coffee Maker

Apparently you can now make Oatmeal in a Coffee Maker

My kids LOVE oatmeal so I faithfully get up every morning and cook them rolled oats for breakfast.  The Mister, no matter how detailed my instructions, botches it every time. He even botches the little oatmeal packets! Seriously, who can mess that up? If I have to leave before breakfast, I measure everything out before I leave, (yeah, I have control issues).

Here’s my usual recipe:

1 1/2 Cups rolled oats
2 1/2 Cups water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 C + 2Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 Cup Milk
pat of Butter for each bowl.

Combine first three ingredients in a pot. Cover the pot and cook over very low heat, until cooked (approximately 10mins) Do not stir while cooking.
When oatmeal is cooked add the brown sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and milk and stir together. Scoop into bowls and top with pats of butter.
Makes 3 large servings or 4 smaller ones. 

If cooking it from scratch is not your style, LifeHacker has this totally cool food hack. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m totally going to! Well, if The Mister will let me put Oatmeal in his precious coffeemaker, that is.

Head over there to get this fun little tute!

Image Courtesy of LifeHacker

Make Oatmeal in a Coffee Maker

Blessed

Imagine my excitement when I opened my mail today to find a Gift Card to Pier1 Imports! inside a birthday card. My amazing, fantastic absolutely fabulous Sister-in-law C sent it to me. She called to wish me happy birthday last week and we got to talking and I mentioned how I just loved Pier1 even though I can’t get hired there to save my life. I guess she was listening and she knew exactly what to get me as a present. Thanks C, you’re the best ever! Oh, and this time the GC didn’t almost end up in the trash like last Christmas.

Later in the evening on Christmas long after all the presents were opened and all the initial excitement had died down, I decided I wanted all the boxes taken outside to the trash. I just couldn’t stand looking at the mess, and I wanted it all gone, like ASAPtually! When The Mister didn’t move fast enough to take out the mess, I decided I would take it out myself. He managed to convince me to wait till the morning (which was the day before trash day) due to neighborhood cats, racoons and such.  I grudgingly agreed. Imagine our shock followed by horror the next morning when he discovered 2 gift cards in one of the boxes I almost threw out the night before! Mine $50 to Lowes, his a $25 GC to Barnes and Noble from my wonderful in-laws(they know us well)! Of course The Mister still won’t let me live that one down.

{Sidebar

Did I mention that I have the best in-laws ever? I am so blessed to have married into a family who loves and accepts me unconditionally as they do. Mami, my Mother-in-law, despite the language barrier is awesome. She also makes the bangin’-est Moro de Habichuelas I’ve ever tasted! My brother-in-laws are also pretty amazing. I actually have a relationship with them that goes beyond ‘hi, bye.’ Brother B never fails to bring back a gift for me on his many, many vacation trips. I swear that man stays on Vacay! He really knows how to enjoy life, as he makes it a point to go to a different part of the world at least once a quarter. Sister C is simply the best sister-in-law anyone could ask for. I really gained a sister when I married her brother oh-so-many years ago. I couldn’t imagine life in a different familia. Did I mention they know how to party? They are a rowdy bunch and  I am so thankful for them.

End Sidebar}

So guess who’s going to have fun tricking up the newly-charming living room at Pier1? I was there last weekend with my friend V, and I saw quite a few things that I simply must have!

image courtesy of pier1.com

I have been sweating one of these ever since I saw a pink Cynthia Rowley version at Marshall’s last summer. Doesn’t it just look so soft and inviting?

image courtesy of pier1.com

What a funky rug this is! Now if only the price would fit neatly into my gift card…

image courtesy of pier1.com

Maybe some of these gorgeous jar candles? I could use some for my party, and these would fit neatly into my Gift Card, lol

images courtesy of pier1.com

And how darling are these animal coffee mugs?! No one will mistake your coffee mug for someone else’s for sure!

This is too much fun and I can’t wait!

This must be what clouds taste like

Clouds of White

Yes, Homemade Marshmallows.

I have to admit, I never gave much thought to marshmallows before, given the store-bought travesty with which I was previously acquainted. I didn’t even realize it was possible to make Marshmallows until I saw Her Royal Highness make it on her show. Hmm… “why would anyone go to the trouble?” was my first thought. It wasn’t until I started seeing it sold on Etsy that I thought I’d better investigate making my own.  I’ve made a few batches and each time resulted in this:

Sugar High

Now, marshmallows aren’t exactly health food, so I rarely make it.  We recently made a batch in preparation for fire-place season. A batch usually hangs around the house for a while since I ration them out with the precision of a drill sergeant.  I can’t have the above happening on a daily basis.

They were only too happy to help

So, you’re still wondering why anyone would go to the trouble of making marshmallows when they are so readily, abundantly and cheaply available. Well, if you’re like me, it’s because of the following reasons

a) You have the incurable urge to make everything you see even if you only attempt it once.

b) You know that anything homemade has to be better than store-bought.

c) You get a secret thrill from watching gelatinous sugar water turn into thick, fluffy, frothy, luscious clouds of sugar.

From This...

...To this

d) or maybe you had too much time on your hands.

If any of the above reasons pertain to you, proceed downwards to get your recipe (courtesy of FoodTV).

If none of the above pertain to you, then proceed to ETSY to get yourself some, because you simply haven’t lived until you’ve tasted them.

Homemade Marshmallows

Recipe:

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Nonstick spray

Method:

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

For regular marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

For miniature marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper, spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray and dust with the confectioners’ sugar mixture.

Scoop the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round piping tip. Pipe the mixture onto the prepared sheet pans lengthwise, leaving about 1-inch between each strip. Sprinkle the tops with enough of the remaining cornstarch and sugar mixture to lightly cover. Let the strips set for 4 hours or up to overnight.

Cut into 1/2 inch pieces using a pizza wheel or scissors dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining sugar mixture and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Enjoy!

Dinner

Coconut Brown Rice with Braised Tilapia and Green Beans

Brown Rice too chewy? The coconut milk makes it go down better, unless of course you don’t like the flavor of coconut, in which case I can’t help you 🙂

Coconut Brown Rice: (Do this first, it takes the longest to cook)

2 Cups Brown Rice
1 Can (unsweetened) Coconut Milk
2 1/2 C Water
salt to taste

Method: Combine Ingredients in pot. Bring to boil and simmer until rice is softened and liquids have evaporated.

Braised Tilapia (Do this while the rice cooks)

1 Ib tilapia filets

1 small onion, diced

1 small green pepper, diced

1 medium tomato, diced, or 1/2 can of diced tomatoes

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tablespoon (salt free)fish seasoning
(I buy mine from the spice guy at our local farmer’s market, I’m not sure of all the spices it includes but I’m pretty sure it contains fennel and paprika). If you can’t find something similar, good ol’ Old Bay will do)

2 Tbsp canola oil

salt to your taste

Method:

1. Cut Tilapia into nugget sized pieces and marinate with fish seasoning and salt for 15-20 minutes (or however long it takes you to dice the veggies)

2. saute onions, garlic,  tomatoes and green peppers in oil for 5 minutes.

3. Add the Tilapia, mixing with the vegetables. Cover with a lid and let simmer until fish is no longer raw (approximately 7 minutes).

Steamed Green Beans (Do this last)

1 Ib of frozen french cut green beans (or fresh if you have it)

butter, grated Parmesan cheese or any other topping desired. I leave mine un-topped.

Method: Steam in a steamer for 5 minutes, or blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes.

This meal served 2 adults and 3 children with some leftovers.

Bon Apetit!

Can’t-Wait-For-Fall Muffins


Here is one of my favorite muffin recipes.  It’s delicious, healthy and simple to make.  I love them with the nuts but you can omit them.  You may also substitute any dried fruit you prefer. These usually don’t stay long in my home so you’ll find yourself wanting to make more before long.

Download a printable copy here.

INGREDIENTS

* 1 cup water
* 2 cups sugar
* 2 cups grated apples
* 2 cups dried cranberries, cherries
or raisins
* 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the water, sugar, apples, dried fruit, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and cool completely.

In a large bowl, stir the nuts and baking soda into the flour. Add the cooled mixture to the bowl, and stir until blended. Fill greased miniature muffin tins with batter to the top. Bake for 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

Mmmm…Fresh Baked Bread!

Just a little eye-candy (sorry for the crappy cell-phone camera pic)…
I ran out of bread, so I decided to bake some.  It’s really quite easy to make.  I used a simple recipe that used everything I already had on hand.  I only had one packet of yeast, so it didn’t rise as well as it could, so it was a little dense, but it’s still delish…

(Now I just have to make sure I don’t eat too much of it!)

Sweet Amish Style Bread

Ingredients (Makes 2 loaves)

  • 2 cups warm water (not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast)
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast (2packets)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cups bread flour (I used a little over 5)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.
  2. Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  3. Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9×5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.

Oh Aldi, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

You may remember my recent posts about my latest foray into coupon shopping rapture.  I mentioned my usual store, Aldi.  Well, I felt that Aldi deserved a post unto itself, and so here it is.

Full disclosure:  I am in no way affiliated with Aldi.  I am not paid to review or write about the store in any way shape or form.  I just like what the store has done for my family’s food budget. That’s all. Nothing else.

Well, I am not ashamed to admit that my family income is on the low end of the spectrum.  Combine that with tough economic times, I find that I have to pinch even more pennies, and make that dollar stretch!  I’ve shopped at Wal-Mart, and used coupons, but still needed to pinch more.  I had always heard of Aldi, even before we moved to Ohio, so as soon as we got here, that was one of the first stores I visited. I must say, I was a bit nervous to shop there.  I had some pre-conceptions of what it would be like, having shopped at similar stores in the past.

I was, and still am, pleasantly surprised. Let me just say that I shop Aldi mostly for my staples, and some produce.  I am not brand loyal, and I only buy organic produce when it’s cost effective. I grew up on generics, so off-brands don’t bother me. What I’m trying to say is, Aldi is not for the picky.  I have a family of 5 to feed, and it serves my needs.  With that said, here are just a few things I’ve noticed from shopping at Aldi.

1. Off-brand is just another term for ‘store-brand’.  When it comes to your pantry staples, it’s really no worse, and it’s sometimes actually better than advertised brand-names.  The naming and packaging is just window dressing and advertising.  Let’s take for instance, one of my other favorite stores, Trader Joe’s.  Just like Aldi, TJs has it’s own store brand.  Most (if not all the brands for sale in TJs are not advertised, because they are marketed exclusively by them.  Same goes with Aldi.  But for some reason, upscale shoppers flock to TJs while they wouldn’t be caught dead in Aldi.  Why?  The difference is in product positioning and brand image.  TJs is marketed to the upscale and hipster communities, while Aldi is marketed to the budget conscious. What’s even more interesting, I have found identical products in both stores, with one difference: packaging and size. On day 1, I bought an 4oz bar of a  particular brand of chocolate with hazelnuts from TJs for $1.99.  A few days later, I purchased an 8oz bar of the exact same type of chocolate for the same $1.99.  The only difference was the the packaging.  So, I got twice the amount I got from TJs for the same price at Aldi!

2.  Aldi is way more efficient and eco-friendly than most stores. There are 3 reasons I say this.
1.  The cart rental system.  When you go to shop Aldi, you don’t automatically get a free cart.  The cart works on a deposit system, where you deposit a quarter onto the do-hicky attached to the cart.  upon completing your shopping, you get your quarter back, IF you return your cart to the front of the store.  Guess what?  100% of the carts get put back, because everyone wants their money back, even if it’s just a quarter!  No parking lots littered with carts and no cars dinged by carts either!
2. No free grocery bags. You either bring your own or buy one.  It’s a good time to use all those reusable bags you’ve been stashing.  You are also welcome to ‘bag’ your goods in one of their empty boxes, IF you can find one. Most of the time I forget my bags at home or in the car, so guess who’s schlepping her unbagged groceries around in the trunk of the car, hehehe….
3.  Simple and efficient store layout. I’m usually in and out in about 30 minutes. I would still just be making my way through the produce department in your friendly neighborhood supercenter in that time.

Did I mention that Aldi is very very budget friendly? If I haven’t, let me give some prices.  1 6 pack of bagels (same varieties you would find in another grocery store) $1.69,versus $2.50… 1 loaf of whole grain white bread: $1.19, versus about $2… 1 ball of fresh mozzarella cheese (same exact brand as the other stores) $2.50, versus $3.99…and on and on… I don’t think I’ve spent more than $50 in one trip.

I mentioned that I mostly get my staples from here. I don’t get everything from there because they don’t have everything.  Sometimes it can be hit or miss, especially when it comes to the ‘special buys’.  They also don’t have a fresh poultry/meat department.  And they don’t sell tofu or soymilk.  All in all, I am eternally grateful that Aldi exists, because I suffer sticker shock when I go to other stores, and this helps me keep my food budget manageable.

So, go on, give it a try! Shop at Aldi, or a similar store in your neck of the woods.  Don’t be scurred….

Edited on 5/20/2010 to add:  My local Aldi stores now carry soymilk at $2.29/half gallon, yay!!!!!!!!  They read my mind!

Edited on 8/10/2010 to add: I found out recently that Aldi is owned by the same company that owns Trader Joe’s.  No wonder a lot of the products are similar if not the same.  Also Aldi does now carry fresh meat and ground turkey.  Still waiting for the Tofu…

Coupons…A love/hate story

I’m sure you’ve seen them. The coupon queens who profess their coupon savings with breathless abandon, urging you to do the same.  I have a friend just like this. In fact she’s managed to parlay her coupon love into a mini-career.  You go girl!  I’m not mad at her at all.

My thing is this, I’ve tried and tried and tried.  I’ve thrown myself fully into couponing with the dream of spending $20 on $200 cart of goods.  That just hasn’t happened for me.  What I end up doing instead is buying a whole bunch of stuff I don’t normally buy, while spending more money and time than I normally would, had I just gone to my usual spot, Aldi.

It just hasn’t worked for me, yet I keep trying, seduced by all the success stories I’ve heard. Take for instance, this past weekend. I headed to Meijers with my collection of coupons that were set to expire on that Saturday. I had coupons like $1 off $3 worth of bread, $5.50 off $55 or more total purchase. All in all, I had $11 off worth off coupons, and the minimum I had to spend was $55, meaning that if I stuck to the plan and only purchased $55 worth of products, the most I’d spend was $44  Nice, right?  Well, guess what? 2 hours later, dazed, confused, harried and reeling from sticker-stock, my bill came to about $75, meaning that I actually spent $64.  Okay, true indeed, I ‘saved’ $11, but guess what?  I spent at least $20 more TOTAL than if I’d done my regular trip. Not to mention the time I spent wandering around the store, trying to piece together everything I was supposed to buy to qualify for the discounts. The irony is that when I finally checked out, out spewed another handful of coupons of the same variety.  I guess they knew they’d found a sucker.

My experience this weekend was with store coupons, you know the kind that print out when you check out.  Kroger and Meijer are good for these kinds of coupons. Manufacturer coupons are a little better in that you can use them wherever you want, however, they are still for things I don’t usually buy.

I’m not suggesting that coupons are not good for anyone. It works if you buy a lot of prepackaged foods and frozen food.  There are no coupons for about 99% of what I buy.  There are no coupons for fresh produce, tofu, fresh juices and the like.  The other one percent of the coupons are almost a joke (Save .10 off 3 cans, anyone???).   If I happen to find a .50 off coupon for soy or almond milk, I will be ever so grateful, and use it.  Until then I will stop going out of my way to use coupons.