Sunday, October 2, 2011

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

I was walking through the grocery store and got an overwhelming craving for something I haven't eaten in years--red beans and rice! I have been heavily using my slow cooker over the past couple weeks, so I definitely wanted to make it a slow cooker recipe, and given the cleaned plates and seconds at supper tonight and the fact that my oldest daughter asked to take the leftovers in her lunch tomorrow, it came out pretty good!

We don't do pork, so I used a smoked turkey sausage (ring-style), but you can use what you like of course. I wanted to use some all natural chicken sausages we buy often, but they were out of the flavor that would work in this recipe (wasn't sure the feta spinach or the apple maple would work very well here!). I love the brown rice in this recipe, it's so much heartier, not to mention more healthful too. It was an economical, delicious, filling and fairly healthful meal!

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

1/2 14 oz package fully cooked lean smoked turkey/chicken sausage, sliced
1 cup dried red beans or kidney beans
3 cups homemade vegetable stock (or any low sodium vegetable or chicken stock)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
1 bay leaf
Optional: cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup dried brown rice, cooked according to package directions

Directions: Soak beans in a large bowl of cold water overnight, drain and rinse. Add all ingredients except rice to slow cooker and cook on high for 6 hours. Remove bay leaf. Stir rice in when 10-15 minutes cooking time remains or serve bean mixture over rice.

Turkey sausage: $2.7/pkg, used 1/2 = $1.38
Brown rice (organic): $3.29/pkg - 20% off sale ($2.63), used 1/5 = $.53
Red beans: $1.39/pkg, used 1/3 = $.46
Celery (organic): On sale $1.69/head, used 1/5 =  $.34
Bell pepper: $1.00
Vegetable stock: Homemade Freebie
Onion: Garden Freebie

Total Cost: $3.71
Six Servings: $.62 per serving

Monday, September 26, 2011

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

My oldest daughter went on a field trip to a farm last week and brought home a 5 pound bag of freshly dug potatoes.  Fall weather has really socked it to us this past week, so a big ol' pot of potato soup was my first thought when she mentioned she would be bringing the potatoes home (her class actually ended up making potato soup after their trip as well). Given my need for slow cooker recipes lately thanks to school and my Zumba class, I wanted something fairly easy too, and this really fit the bill and hit the spot!

This is not a super thick potato soup full of butter, flour and cream some of us might be used to. It is on the lighter side, yet I find it just as comforting and satisfying as the fat-laden stuff. It's also a very economical recipe. Even if you purchase potatoes and some of the other ingredients, you can do it cheaply.

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

5 cups homemade vegetable stock (or any vegetable or chicken stock)
1 cup milk
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
3 large carrots, chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp fresh chives (or 1 tsp dried)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 8-9 hours, high for 4 - 4 1/2 hours. When half an hour of cooking time remains, add milk, check for seasoning (salt and pepper) and continue cooking.


Potatoes (local): Farm Field Trip Freebie
Carrots (organic): $1.98/2 lb bag, used 1/4 = $.50
Celery (organic): On sale for $1.69/bunch, used 1/5 = $.34
Onion: Garden Freebie
Garlic: Garden Freebie
Parsley: Garden Freebie
Chives: Garden Freebie
Vegetable Stock: Homemade Freebie
Milk (organic unsweetened coconut): $3.99/half gallon, used 1/8 = $.50

Total Cost: $1.34
Eight Servings: $.17 per serving

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cincinnati Inspired Chili (Stove Top or Slow Cooker!)

Sorry for the mess on the plate--I got lazy when draining the pasta!

I had planned on making some sort of chili for supper tonight, and upon hearing that this morning, my youngest son asked, "can you make chocolate chili?" I thought for a bit and remembered my version of Cincinnati chili I had made several years ago, dug around in files on our old dinosaur of a desktop and started experimenting. 

If you've never had Cincinnati chili, you are missing out!  It's so flavorful and a nice change from the usual southwest style chili. It can be eaten straight out of a bowl, on burgers and wieners, etc., but we prefer ours served over pasta-- on top of spaghetti is a very traditional way to serve it. I've seen it topped with raw onion, oyster crackers, kidney beans and cheddar cheese, and I am sure there are many other options. We stick to raw onion and cheddar cheese--LOTS of raw onion!

I used extra lean ground chicken tonight, and with the cooking in water/smashing method of cooking it, nobody knew it wasn't ground beef. I served it over organic gluten free pasta (that I got on clearance!) alongside organic peas and carrots, and the meal was a big hit!

Cincinnati Inspired Chili

1 lb extra lean ground chicken/turkey/beef
1 cup + water
1 small onion, chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz tomato sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
optional: cayenne pepper to taste

Directions: Place ground meat and 1 cup of water in a large pot/pan. Bring water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, all the while mashing meat with a potato masher or fork--you want the meat to have a smooth, fine-grained texture. When meat is fully cooked and most of the water has evaporated, choose one of the following preparations:

Slow cooker preparation: Place all ingredients in slow cooker, cook on low for 6-8 hours and add water as necessary to get to desired consistency (we like ours thick and don't add any water). I prefer low and slow to really develop the flavors, but you can also cook it on high for 3-4 hours.

Stove top preparation: Add the rest of the ingredient to the meat, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for one hour. Add water as necessary as it simmers if you like a thinner consistency.


Ground chicken (no antibiotics/veg fed): On sale for $3.99/lb plus 20% off = $3.19
Tomato sauce (organic): On sale for $.99 = $.99
Onion and Garlic: Garden Freebies

Total Cost: $4.18
Six servings: $.70 per serving

Don't forget--one week to enter gift code giveaway!

Details here!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bob's Red Mill Give Away Winner and Amazon Gift Card Giveaway Reminder!

Winner of the Bob's Red Mill Surprise Gift Box Giveaway is E @ Jet's Journey. An e-mail has been sent to the address provided.

Thanks so much to all who entered--don't forget to enter the $20 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

Easy Vegetarian Taco Pizza

For tonight's supper, I combined two of our favorites, Taco Night and Pizza Night, into Taco Pizza Night. Not only was in insanely cheap, but it was really delicious and will most definitely be making an appearance again soon!

When I make a taco pizza, I completely cook the crust before adding any toppings. I abhor melted cheese on my taco pizza, so that is always the very last ingredient I top the pizza with. Speaking of cheese, I prefer to buy organic cheese in chunks and then grate it myself. Once nice result of that is that even though I use the same dry measurement as I would with an already shredded cheese, I really end up using less cheese by weight since when I grate it myself, they are lighter, thinner shreds that tend to curl and aren't as tightly packed as the already shredded stuff.

I am really trying to move away from commercially-canned products as much as possible, so I rely on dried beans quite a bit. Yes, they can take awhile to cook compared to merely opening a can, so on days I have extra time, I cook up a large batch and freeze them in about 1 1/2 to 2 cup portions for those days I might not have as much time.

Easy Vegetarian Taco Pizza

1 14" pizza crust (try my 100% whole wheat pizza crust)
1 cup dried black beans, prepared according to pkg directions
1/3 cup water
2 cups spinach, kale or lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional for garnish: sour cream, taco sauce, crushed tortilla chips

Step 1: Bake pizza crust for complete recommended baking time with no toppings on it.

Step 2:  Heat beans and water in a saucepan over medium high heat. As water heats up, mash beans until smooth. Add chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper and garlic, stir until well combined and remove from heat.

Step 3: Spread bean mixture over pizza crust and cut pizza into desired number of slices. Top with spinach/lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and  any other desired garnishes.

It might not look like much bean mixture in the saucepan , but it covers my 14" crust perfectly!


Pizza crust (homemade): $1.04
Black beans: $1.99/1-lb bag, used 1/3 = $.66
Tomatoes: Garden Freebie
Onion: Garden Freebie
Garlic: Garden Freebie
Spinach and Kale: Garden Freebies
Cheese (organic): $3.49/8 oz pkg, used 1/6 = $.58

Total Cost: $2.28
Eight slices: $.29 per slice

Saving Money with Annie's Homegrown/Naturals and the Alice Marketplace

I stumbled upon another great online deal (for me anyway)! Some of you may be familiar with Annie's and their Annie's Homegrown and Annie's Naturals products. They make boxed pastas (organic, natural and gluten free varieties), organic salad dressings and other condiments, organic fruit snacks (with no high fructose corn syrup!), cookies, gluten free cookies and the infamous Cheddar Bunnies, cute little crackers made with organic wheat flour. My local stores carry only a very small handful of Annie's products, and I was thrilled to find I can purchase their products online directly from their website. If you visit the Our Coupons tab on Annie's Facebook page, you can see the current online coupons that are available--right now they have instant $1.00 off coupons for organic pasta with creamy cheddar sauce and five varieties of organic salad dressings! You can use as many of them as you like in one order.

When you check out, you have the option to purchase from other manufacturers in  the Alice Marketplace (Annie's is "powered by" Alice). They carry a wide array of household products--cleaning products, diapers, baby food and formula, laundry supplies, cosmetics, health and beauty aids, hygiene products, pet supplies and paper and plastic products--the list goes on. They also have many instant coupons available, and while I didn't need anything this time around, I most definitely saw some great deals on products we use.

They also have a fairly good deal on shipping. You only need to purchase six items OR $50 worth of products to receive free shipping. I purchased six Annie's items for a grand total of only $21.54 and received free shipping! The best part is that if you don't need six items from Annie's, you can purchase any item/s from the other manufacturers in the Alice Marketplace, and that will count toward your six item minimum as well.

I received notice that my order shipped less than 24 hours after I placed it and was provided with a tracking number. I received my order in three days, and it included a cute little free sample gift bag with samples of a natural laundry detergent and three all natural drink mixes. My glass bottles were properly wrapped and protected, and everything made it in one piece.

While I can get some Annie's products a little cheaper on Amazon and use my gift card balance if I've got it available, there are some products I just don't need a case of six of, such as organic versions of mustard, Worcestershire sauce and salad dressings, and the instant coupons available on select products from Annie's will make them cheaper than Amazon. I always have more than enough items saved in my Amazon cart to use any gift card balance on, so I most definitely won't be spending money needlessly if I get things elsewhere. I am going to be a repeat Annie's/Alice customer for sure!

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Favorite Amazon Grocery (and Non Grocery) Deals

I was asked in my Saving Money With and Giveaway post for some of the items I have found that are good deals. These are just some of my favorites, items that happen to be much cheaper via Amazon than locally or simply unavailable locally for me. Since this will really vary depending on the items you like to buy and where you are at, make a list of your own often-used items and look them up--there is everything from flour and sugar to cereals, rice, pasta, honey, granola bars, cookies--countless grocery items and almost anything else  under the sun you could need. I purchased a case of laundry detergent for a great deal, got a free Pack n Play for my youngest a little over a year ago thanks to the gift cards I earned from Swagbucks, get most of my textbooks from Amazon and have also recently paid nothing for cloth diapers, a grill basket for fish, canning supplies, a two-pound jar of honey, a flat iron (for hair), a replacement gasket for my blender, a protective floor mat for under the baby's chair, a closet doubling bar, a hanging closet organizer--I could go on and on...... :)

There are several grocery products that require the purchase of a case, which has typically been between four and six items per case for the products I have been purchasing. Don't get scared by the word "case"--most items I buy are in fairly small packages and really don't take up much room at all. If it's something you don't use much of and don't have the room in the cupboard, pantry or freezer for, then clearly paying the bit extra for one item at the grocery store is the more sensible option you. But if there is an item you are really interested in and can't get it locally, don't dismiss Amazon just yet--talk to local friends and family to see if some of them might want to split a case with you!

Note: make sure you are looking closely at package sizes so you are accurately comparing prices!

(Typed this part after finishing the whole post) There is a lot of info here already, so I will stop where I am at and maybe make this a regular feature as I come across deals on new items! And I apologize--until I can figure out if there is a way to do it so that it shows up correctly, I had to take off information I typed under each item regarding the lower Subscribe and Save price plus how many packages and what sizes come in a case if applicable. I had it all nicely laid out, and then when I previewed the post, it looked like a big mess! So the Subscribe and Save price is actually going to be lower than the price you see on the pictures--it will be clearly visible on the product's listing on Amazon.

Bob's Red Mill

You already know thanks to my Bob's Red Mill Giveaway post that I love their products and respect them as a company making an effort to give their customers healthful, natural and/or organic grains and other foods. My favorite grocery store has a growing number of BRM products, but there is still much I can't get there. Every BRM product I have checked on Amazon so far is cheaper than at my grocery store, but if it's not something I use much of, I am happy to pick up one package at the grocery store versus a case on Amazon. I love their Organic Oat Bran Hot Cereal. The organic version is not available in my grocery store, and the organic version on Amazon is actually cheaper than the regular version in my grocery store. We go through a lot of quinoa, and buying a case of four packages through Amazon with Subscribe & Save saves me $10 over the price in my grocery store! We haven't gone wrong with any of their pancake mixes, and I especially like the organic high fiber mix. I grind/chop my own flaxseed (necessary to be able to digest them for your body to use) and throw it in granola, pancakes, bread, any baked goods, on oatmeal/hot cereal, in yogurt, even many main dishes. They are a great source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, lignans and fiber.



I never knew just how many Kashi products there really are until I went to a larger grocery store out of town! I was quite displeased to see I had been missing out on Cocoa Beach, an amazingly delicious chocolate coconut granola cereal! As soon as testing for gluten issues is done in our house, we'll be going back to gluten free and making my own chocolate coconut granola with gluten free oats, but I am enjoying this in the mean time. I picked up a box the first time I saw it (they are small boxes!) at that other grocery store, but it is much, much cheaper on Amazon than it was there (almost $5 a box!), especially with Subscribe & Save. GOLEAN Crunch Honey Almond Flax was another favorite, and that too is much cheaper with Amazon's regular price and more so with Subscribe & Save than the regular price at my store of $3.99 per box.


Gluten Free

If you eat gluten free, you know it can be very expensive. Right now we have had to bring gluten back so my husband can undergo testing, and as miserable as it is making everyone, especially my youngest two kiddos, I do have to say my grocery bill has been just a little lighter! I try to stay away from as much processed foods as possible anyway, but sometimes we want to enjoy sugar cookie s'mores around the campfire, a pizza crust that actually tastes familiar, a fresh baked loaf of whole grain bread or whip up some quick pancakes! There are some items I can actually find and get a little cheaper at my grocery store, but these items I have highlighted are priced well below what I can get them for locally. I use a lot of gluten free rolled oats in my homemade granola, in baking recipes and as breakfast for the kids, and buying a case of four packages from Amazon (I always need at least two packages on hand anyway) saves me $10 over my grocery store's price!

Baking Supplies

If you do a lot of baking, there are some really great deals to be had. You can get 25-lb bags of flour (I use organic 100% whole wheat flour in my non-gluten free baking) or four 5-lb bags. I haven't found large packages of yeast yet locally, so I already added a case to my Amazon cart. And I had no idea Bob's Red Mill produces baking powder and baking soda, so those are in my cart as well. I use a lot of organic unsweetened coconut--for granola, other baking and making my own coconut milk, and buying a case through Amazon saves me $19.48 over my grocery store's price!


Miscellaneous Non-Grocery Items I Can't Find Locally

I am all about shopping locally and do so whenever I can, but I live in a not-really-big town, so I don't have a lot of options for shopping when it comes to non-grocery natural/organic/"green" items. I pack lunches for my oldest two children to take to school, and I needed something in addition to our reusable sandwich and snack bags, something that could hold the "wet" items but that was not plastic. I finally decided on the LunchBots Duo stainless steel containers, and they are PERFECT! One side is plenty big enough for a main dish for them, and the other side can hold a couple different items. Or I can put two different finger foods on each side, whatever they feel like that day! I am also getting a couple small round stainless steel containers for the really wet/liquid items like applesauce, salsa, yogurt, really juicy fruits, etc. that I wouldn't want to get on anything in the larger container, just in case. Amazon's price was much cheaper than anywhere else I found online, and with my Amazon gift card balance thanks to the sites mentioned in my previous post, I got two of the LunchBots Duo containers FREE! I also just ordered a FREE Kleen Kanteen 12 oz stainless steel water bottle for my oldest son (you can even get them with sippy lids for younger children!), and while I haven't quite decided on the smaller food containers yet, there are a few in the running, and whichever set I choose, it too will be FREE! I am working on replacing all of our plastic food storage containers with glass and stainless steel, even tough my husband thinks I have finally gone off the deep end! ;)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Happy Eating This Labor Day Weekend!

Hope you are all enjoying this traditional "last hurrah" of summer, though I for one am not letting go of summer just yet! There are so many things I still want to do before the weather gets cooler, so we'll try to squeeze it all in over the next few weeks!

When I think Labor Day weekend, naturally I think food. Tonight we are going to enjoy my Cheesy Tomato Basil Burgers on 100% Whole Wheat Buns along with a new recipe you will see tonight, Slow Cooker Baked Beans! Not sure what we will have tomorrow, but I am betting it will be grilled over charcoal!

I hope you all have a super fun and safe long weekend! Thanks so much for hanging around! :)


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saving Money With and Giveaway!

I am admittedly an junkie. Not only have I earned well over $500 worth of gift cards from a few sites in the last year to spend on Amazon, but I can get so many food items I can't get locally or that are much more expensive locally. Some items do come in cases with 4-6 items per case, but it's worth it for me since they are items we use on a regular basis and have room for. There are many ways to save on Amazon, and I have compiled my strategies below.

Amazon did not ask me to write or compensate me in any way for this post, I really am just that much of a junkie! ;)

Subscribe & Save

There are many items on Amazon eligible for Subscribe & Save. If you choose the option, you receive a % discount (15% off grocery items, up to 30% on other types of items) and free shipping in exchange for setting up automatic delivery of that item every 1, 2, 3 or 6 months. You receive free shipping and the % off the listed price on all future shipments as long as your subscription is active, and you are not charged until each order ships. The great thing is that if you really do not want automatic delivery of that item, as soon as you are finished checking out, you can go into your account, choose "Manage Subscribe & Save Items" and cancel it. Or, you can keep it active and adjust the time in between shipments, skip a shipment or add a shipment at any time as well--it really is a handy feature for items you use regularly! Eligible items will clearly show the S& S price after the regular price in the listing.

Amazon Prime

Subscribing to Amazon Prime ($79 per year) gives you unlimited free two-day shipping without the usual $25 minimum for free standard shipping and $3.99 per item one-day shipping on eligible items. If you are an avid Amazon shopper (they have everything under the sun!) and are like me and sometimes don't need to break that $25 free shipping minimum, this is a great deal. I also find the free two-day shipping priceless for my textbooks and other emergency purchases that pop up on occasion! You also get free release date shipping on video games, movies and book, unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows and quick and easy 1-Click ordering. If you have not been a Prime member in the last 13 months, you can go the the Prime Free Trial Page and sign up for a free trial. It will ask you for a valid card, but if you are not interested in upgrading to the paid membership when your trial is over, click on "Manage Your Prime Membership" under your account and then click "do not upgrade" at any time before your trial is up. I have done two free trials and had no issues when it came to cancelling them--super easy.

Amazon Mom

If you are a primary caretaker of an infant through toddler-age child, check out Amazon Mom! You automatically get three free months of Prime Membership, and that is extended by 1 month every time you spend $25 or more in the Baby Store, and you can extend it that way up to one year. I use cloth diapers and wipes, so I can't comment on how great of a deal it is, but diapers and wipes are 30% with subscribe and save--a great way to get necessities, pay no shipping and extend your Prime Membership!

Amazon Student

If you are a college student with a valid .edu e-mail address, you can qualify for Amazon Student. Enjoy six free months of Amazon Prime Membership, and then each year after that for up to four years is half off, only $39 per year. My free Amazon Student period ended today, and I upgraded right away. Even the $79 per year for the Prime membership would be well worth my while, as I very often need textbooks as quickly as possible and have gladly paid $3.99 many times to get them here the next day ($17.98 without Prime) or especially enjoyed the free two-day shipping that automatically comes with Prime for that reason as well ($11.98 without Prime).

Sites I Use to Earn Amazon Gift Cards

These are the three sites I am actively using to accrue Amazon gift cards. If you are aware of any others, please feel free to mention them in the comments!

Opinion Outpost: This is the site I earn the most Amazon gift cards through, and it is also the quickest to accrue for me. You can qualify for surveys, with each survey giving you a predetermined amount of reward points that you can redeem for not only Amazon gift cards, but a check, Red Cross Donation, Citi gift card, etc. I have earned $75 in just over a month, and I could most definitely be putting in more effort.

Swagbucks: Earn virtual bucks (Swagbucks) for activities such as using their search engine, taking a daily poll, printing and redeeming coupons, surveys, etc. I don't put in as much effort as I used to, but I still get at least three $5 Amazon gift cards per month, sometimes four or five. You are not limited to Amazon gift cards, there are many, many other prizes to redeem your Swagbucks on such as other gift cards (Target, Starbucks, etc.), $ in your PayPal account and apparel, games, music and much more.

Crowdtap: I am fairly new to this one but really like it so far. It does not require much effort, so far I have been answering some "quick hits," which are super short polls and taking part in some longer discussions. There is also opportunity for sampling products (at no cost to you) and sharing your thoughts, the two I have seen so far being Old Navy flip-flops and Old Navy Jeans. I believe with both of those, they also gave you two free product coupons to share with friends too. When you get to $9.99 in rewards, you can cash out at any time, and 5% will go to the charity you choose from their really great list when you sign up (Crowdtap also matches that 5%), and you can either choose to donate the rest to that charity or have an Amazon gift code e-mailed to you.


Did you think I'd ever get to it?! ;) The winner of this giveaway will receive a $20 gift card to Like the Bob's Red Mill giveaway (don't forget to enter before the deadline of 8:59 pm central Thursday September 8th), all you have to do to enter is answer a simple question on the quick and easy form below to be entered, and there is opportunity to earn extra entries as well. Deadline for this one will be 8:59 pm central on Monday, September 26th. Winner will be drawn at 9:00 pm.