Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Today's Dillon Deal

Ready to go to the store

Today is the last day of the Dillon's current Mega Event.  If you haven't taken advantage of these deals yet, get on it.  I decided to go to Dillon's and use a few more of my coupon match-ups yesterday.  I had a Catalina (store issued at register) coupon for $3.00 off my next shopping order plus a Catalina coupon for free bacon I wanted to use.  These type of coupons typically have short redemption periods so I always try to use them right away before I forget and let them expire.  

This event requires you purchase 10 items to get $5.00 off. I scoured the advertisement for items for which I had coupons and pulled out the ones I thought applied and planned on possibly using.
All for $6.84 before tax
Here's what I ended up purchasing.

The Hefty storage bags had a 50 cent off Internet coupon which you could load to your Dillon's card.  I am very careful about what coupons I load to my Dillon's card.  Why?  Because they don't double.  If I have a paper coupon less than $1.00, it will usually end up the larger savings. The coupons I load to my Dillon's card are the $1.00 or more coupons because even if I have a coupon, those don't double. You cannot "stack" paper and Dillon's Internet coupons...it's one or the other and if you have a Dillon's coupon loaded to your card, the cashier will not accept your paper coupon.  You don't have the option to choose not to use the Internet coupon. In this instance, I did not have a paper coupon so went ahead and loaded the Dillon's coupon for 55 cents, they were on sale for .99 (after 50 cent deduction for mega event), so I paid 44 cents for the storage bags. They normally cost $2.49.

I purchased five boxes of Granola Bars. The mega event sale price was $1.99 each.  I had five coupons for 50 cents off which doubled making the boxes 99 cents each. Here's a tip for you: Pay attention to those notices that print out at the register.  I received one stating all Fiber One bars would result in a coupon off a future shopping order between 8/6/12 and 9/2/12, buy 3 get $1 off coupon, buy 4 get a $2 off coupon, buy 5 get a $3 off coupon.  I purchased five boxes last week at the sale price with coupons and received  a Catalina coupon for $3 off a future shopping order plus I received another $1 off coupon this trip. Altogether, last week and this week I purchased 10 boxes of granola bars for 99 cents (sale price minus doubled coupon) and received $4 off a future shopping trip.  On average, I paid 60 cents a box for granola bars.  These bars typically cost between $3.05-$3.69 a box.

There is another similar promotion at Dillon's currently. Buy participating Kraft Food products between 8/19-9/15 and get coupons for money off future orders. For example, buy 3-5 items and get $2 off, buy 6-9 items and get $5 off, buy 10 or more and get $10 off a future order. This may end up being a good deal, if these items go on sale and/or you have any matching coupons. Some Kraft brands included are Crystal Light, Kraft dressings, Kraft Mayo, Mio, Planters Peanuts, Velveeta and some Oscar Mayer products.

The pens were on the clearance rack for $1.00.  Both my husband and I am Pen-Picky.  I like a thin pen with a fine tip. My husband likes the chunky-size pens which remind me of the crayons I used in Kindergarten. We spent a lot of time digging through drawers looking for just the right pen.  If I was handed a pie chart at death as to how I spent my life, I would expect "digging for a pen in the junk drawer" to receive it's own sliver of time.

The, hmmmmm, personal female item was also 99 cents. Moving on, the Teddy Graham snacks were on sale for 99 cents. I had a coupon for 75 cents off two Nabisco snacks which doubled to a $1.00, making each bag of sugary little cookies 50 cents each.

The goldfish were 99 cents and I had a coupon but didn't read it close enough to see it had a size limitation of 30 ounces so the coupon didn't apply. Here's the deal...I can't read a lot of the tiny print on coupons, even with my glasses,  which makes me crazy.  Why don't they print the restrictions in normal size?  Since I am somewhat of conspiracy theorist, I assume it's so I will purchase the product based on the coupon then keep it even when I discover the coupon doesn't apply.  In this case, it worked because I needed ten items to get the $5.00 off.  Usually, I have no problem rejecting an item when I learn my coupon is invalid. I thought the goldfish were going to be free, instead I paid 99 cents. But then again, I love goldfish.

OK, so I now had nine items but needed ten in order to get the discount. I ended up purchasing a bag of macaroni because it stores a long time, I use lots of it and 49 cents is an awesome price for macaroni.

Chicken scratches
I keep track of my purchases as I shop. This is why I prefer to make 2-3 small trips a week instead of making everything in one big trip. It's easier to keep track how much I am spending and watch for mistakes at check out. This trip, I thought I would spend around $6.68 with tax. A $1.25 coupon ended up not applying due to a size restriction which also changed the tax amount so I actually spent $8.06. Had I realized the goldfish coupon didn't apply, I would have purchased another bag of macaroni instead, saving another 50 cents.
Spent a total of $8.06 with tax, saved a total of $30.83
81% off the total bill when including all savings!
Still not a bad haul, thirteen items for an average of 53 cents per item pre-tax. I wanted to spell out exactly how I did it because most money saving websites do not give detailed instructions or achieve huge savings only through fraud.  I try to be very honest when couponing and any mistakes are inadvertent.

But you can't live off granola bars and macaroni. Well, you can but it's not a very balanced diet. So grab deals when you can but continue to try and plan wholesome, inexpensive meals. After all, most coupons are for unhealthy, processed food, not dinner.

Feel free to stop by anytime. Don't be surprised if I offer you a granola bar.

Friday, August 24, 2012

How to Make Homemade Trail Mix

Homemade Trail Mix
Last week, my husband and I took a little road trip out to Colorado.  Both of us have memories of going on vacation as children with lots of candy for the road.  I can't imagine how my parents endured long trips with small, sticky, sugar-high children not wearing seat belts and playing "slug bug" in the backseat. I think that's why my Dad always turned up the radio...to drown out the screaming.

Slug Bug was a road game where you slugged your travel companion every time you managed to spy a Volkswagen.  Since I am four years older than my sister, I always won.  So really Slug Bug was me just randomly hitting my baby sister and her crying. How much pain you must endure in childhood is so much dependent on birth order.

So, on this road trip I wanted to take some treats but wanted to keep the sugar content slightly lower than 100%.  I decided to make my own trail mix. Here is my recipe, as if you really need a trail mix recipe:

A bag of dried fruit from the dollar store...............................$1.00
A bag of M & M's from Wal-Mart.......................................$2.98
A bag of chex mix on sale with coupon from Dillon's..............$ .49
Almonds from Sam's, bought in bulk, about..........................$2.00
A bag of coconut from Wal-Mart.........................................$1.28
A bag of sunflower seeds from the dollar store......................$1.00
Half a box of raisins from Aldi's, about.................................$  .90

Total                                                                                    $9.65

This sounds expensive until you compare. Small bags of 6-8 ounces of Trail Mix cost between $3-5 and contain mostly oatmeal with a couple of nuts and maybe a chunk or two of dried fruit. Minus the m&m's, and substitute a little homemade granola for the chex mix (see previous post on how to make homemade granola) and this would actually be a pretty healthy treat.

The bowl pictured above holds 120 ounces or about fifteen 8 ounce bags worth of Trail Mix. When you are trying to save money, always ask yourself....Can I make it myself?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Aldi Fruit
You just can't beat Aldi's for fruit. This week I purchased the following:

2 pound package of seedless green grapes.........................$1.58 (79 cents a pound)
2 pound package of seedless black grapes.........................$1.58 (79 cents a pound)
Cantaloupe........................................................................$  .99
Oranges............................................................................$3.99 (57 cents each)
Strawberries......................................................................$1.69 (16 ounce clamshell)
Package of 6 Kiwi.............................................................$1.49 (25 cents each)
Bananas.............................................................................$ .89  (about 2 pounds, 44 cents a pound)

Total for all before tax........................................................$12.32

That's a lot of fruit for $12.

Let's Compare. Dillon's is advertising red seedless grapes for $1.88 a pound, strawberries for $1.98 and cantaloupe for $1.99. So 4 pounds of grapes, strawberries and cantaloupe would cost $11.48 at Dillon's with card and costs $5.84 at Aldi's.

HyVee is advertising Cantaloupe for $3.00 this week. It costs 99 cents at Aldi's. Why wouldn't you want to cost your food cost by 2/3?  HyVee is also advertising green grapes for 98 cents a pound which is still 19 cents a pound more expensive than Aldi's.

Peaches and Plums were 25 cents each though I didn't buy any. We eat LOTS of fruit so it saves a ton of money to buy it at Aldi's.

Here's a hint, avocados are 29 cents each at Aldi's but were small and hard.  So take the ad to Wal-Mart and price match. I am.

Dillon's Buy 10, Save $5 Event Through August 28

$11.11 for all before tax

Last week Dillon's was having one of their "Buy 10, Save $5" events.  Surprise! Surprise! They are having it again this week. Dillon's seems to be in the habit of running the same sale 2-3 weeks in a row.  So if you miss it the first week, you get a second and sometimes even a third chance to participate.  I can't complain though because there are some great match ups on this event.

In the picture above are 20 items (some are hidden behind others) so on average I paid 56 cents an item, after store sale amount minus coupons. It's a good time to stock up on spaghetti (a staple around here). A lot of the other items I bought fell in the junk food category which was fine because I was on vacation last week and needed car snacks.

To match up coupons to Dillon's sales, I suggest checking out:

This website will point you to websites where you can often print off the coupon you need to match the sale item, if you don't have the coupon.

How Much Should I Be Spending on Food?

Are you frugal?

Last month I spent $440 on groceries for two people.  This just seems excessive to me.  My husband tries to comfort me by saying, "That's only $220 per person.  If you consider we each eat 93 meals a month, it comes to just $2.37 a meal".  

This sounds good on paper but isn't really accurate. First, we rarely eat breakfast unless you count coffee.  I don't make good decisions without coffee. I'm not saying I make good decisions with coffee but at least I make poor decisions faster.

Second, that figure doesn't really account for all the times we eat out. When I say "doesn't really account" that means I didn't include it at all. We spent $232 on eating out in July.  If you include this amount, we spent $3.61 a meal, which is a lot to pay for a cup of coffee. That's why this blog is called "seeking" simple, not "Found" simple.

So I am always asking everyone I know, "How much do you spend on groceries a month"? The answers are amazingly diverse. This question tells you a lot about people. Some will tell you they honestly don't know. Others say "Around so and so..." or "Probably about..." which is the same as "I don't know".  Any figure they throw out is really just a guess and I just automatically double whatever figure they say in my head.

How do I know this?  Because I used to do the same thing.  When I actually started keeping meticulous track of the amount I spent on groceries each month, I was shocked because it was double what I assumed. Now, if someone tells me they spend $541 dollars a month on groceries, I know they really do, because it is a specific amount.

Another thing I have learned is that almost everyone thinks they are frugal yet most of us are not frugal. The United States Department of Agriculture keeps track of these kind of things.  (USDA's Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, June 2012 (http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2012/CostofFoodJun2012.pdf).  According to the the USDA, you are THRIFTY if you spend less than this amount each month on groceries:

Family of 2..................................$376.40  
Family of 4..................................$547.90

The USDA categorizes food expenditure by age and gender and breaks it down into "Thrifty", "Low-cost", "Moderate-cost", and "Liberal".  My $440 fell about half way between "Thrifty" and "Low-Cost". If you include eating out, I have edged over into the Moderate-cost area.  According to the USDA, I could do better.  

Look at the chart I have linked above to discover how you are doing.                 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beware Bulk Purchases

Buying in bulk is always cheapest, right? Wrong! Always do the math to compare which price is actually cheapest before purchasing a product.  Here is an example taken from Wal-Mart but you find the same thing in all stores.

4 Pounds for $3.98
Four pounds at $3.98 makes these onions about a $1 a pound.

3 pounds for $2.68
Three pounds at $2.68 makes these onions about 89 cents a pound.

78 cents a pound

These unbagged onions are 78 cents a pound.  Boy, that plastic netting they use must be really expensive!

When you are in a hurry, it's easiest to just grab a bag of the onions in the netted bags instead of taking the two minutes to find one of those tear off plastic bags and pick out a few onions.  Picking out and bagging your own 3 pounds of onions in this example would save you between 33-66 cents, depending on which bag of onions you chose. If you buy three pounds of onions every month, you would save somewhere around $4-$8 a year---just by picking and bagging your own onions.

Just a note about onions, yellow onions such as the ones pictured above are a good all purpose cooking onion. Vidalia onions, which are flatter and usually bigger, are sweeter but don't store as well. White onions are also sweeter, as are red onions, meaning they can usually be eaten raw.

Dollar Tree Deals

My eldest daughter, Andrea, has decided to become a "minimalist".  She has been going through every closet, drawer, nook and cranny and getting rid of everything she doesn't need or hasn't used in over in a year. 
I am slightly afraid I might be a "maximist", which makes me sound like a Russian who is overly concerned with feminine hygiene but in reality just means I never thrown anything away. 
I like to hold on to things because you never know when you might need them again. I guess that's why I still own my size 6 wedding dress from 1982.  
Apparently, even becoming a minimalist requires buying things. So last week, I tagged along on a trip to the Dollar Tree store located at 29th and Adams with Andrea so she could buy bins to organize the few remaining items which have made the cut.
I did a little comparison shopping between Wal-Mart and Dollar Tree while in the store. I needed steak seasoning and sprinkles. 
McCormick Steak Seasoning at Wal-Mart
14.5 ounces for $5.98 or 41 cents an ounce

Let's do a little more comparison shopping...

Weber Steak Seasoning sold at Wal-Mart
$2.58 for 6 ounces or 43 cents an ounce
Just a side note, this is one of the things Wal-Mart does to make it difficult to compare products.  Please note the store tag says this product is sold for $6.88 a POUND.  Of course, it's being sold in 6 ounce containers. In order to compare the price, you must take $6.88 and divide it by 16--the number of ounces in a pound.

Great Value Sprinkles for $1.68
 1.3 ounces at $1.29 an ounce
So how does Wal-Mart compare to Dollar Tree when it comes to Steak Seasoning and Sprinkles, two of life's necessities? 

Dollar Tree Steak Seasoning and Sprinkles

Dollar Tree was much cheaper than Wal-Mart. The Blazin Blends Steak Seasoning was, you guessed it, $1.00, or 14 cents an ounce.  The Dollar Tree Supreme Edition Rainbow Sprinkles was also, you guessed right again, $1.00, or 28 cents an ounce.
To sum up, steak seasoning is 27 cents an ounce cheaper at Dollar Tree and Sprinkles are $1.01 an ounce cheaper. I could not detect any difference in flavor in either brand. It's salt and pepper and a few miscellaneous seasonings people! It's dyed sugar, for goodness sake! What did you expect?   

Monday, August 13, 2012

Easy Way to Clean a Stove Top or How to Not Clean a Shower

I have a gas stove. I bought a gas stove on purpose. I seriously considered one of those smooth top stoves because they looked so easy to keep clean but I was afraid one would not hold up to heavy duty cooking, such as canning.

I like my stove but it is a PAIN to clean. If you want to know how to do something the easy way, ask a lazy person. I am lazy. Below, is the easy way to clean a gas stove with heavy grills.

If you have a glass top stove, here is a nice post on how to clean it:


I made black beans one night a couple of weeks ago. I obviously wasn't paying attention and let the beans boil over. What a mess!

Bad Mom
Take all the metal pieces, including the grills and pans and place in a garbage bag. Spray each item inside the bag with oven cleaner. Oven cleaner is nasty, be sure to wear gloves, safety glasses and a face mask.  It can literally burn your lungs and intestinal tract.

I use the Wal-Mart brand of oven cleaner, it's cheaper and it works just fine.

Wal-Mart Brand Oven Cleaner
Let the bag containing all the stove parts saturated in oven cleaner sit for several hours. All the crusted on grim will just wipe off fairly easily with just a minimum of light scrubbing required.

Stove parts in Oven cleaner
My husband is constantly telling me, "You just need to learn to focus". I would really like to argue with him about his assessment of me but quit frankly,  I can't concentrate long enough to do so.

Recently I decided to clean my shower. I had purchased some Wal-Mart brand bathroom cleaner in an effort to save a little money. Whatever you do, DO NOT purchase Great Value Bathroom Cleaner. In my opinion, it does not come even close to its Scrubbing Bubbles Competitor. It should be named "Poor Work Ethic Bubbles". Anyway, I wanted to use it up and go get the good stuff. I am a great fan of generic except when it doesn't work.

I started spraying the cleanser and almost couldn't breathe. It seemed like it was greasy and left a dull residue all over the shower.  The stuff was even worse than I remembered. It was right about then I looked down and realized I was using oven cleaner, not foaming bathroom cleaner.

The room was spinning and it was as if I could hear my husband's voice bouncing off the walls. "You need to focus...You need to focus...You need to focus." Forget heroin, I think I was on a really bad oven cleaner trip.

I had to re-clean the shower about three times to remove all the greasy oven cleaner residue. In my defense, they do look eerily similar. If they made Great Value Whipped Cream in a can, I would probably be dead.

Ice Cream and Cake for Breakfast

Every Sunday morning my husband makes us breakfast. It's kind of his "thang". I'm not a big breakfast person. It's probably how the tradition started, he wanted breakfast and since it's not important to me, I didn't make any. I'm more of a "Hey, let's eat skip breakfast but eat lunch at 10:45" kind of girl. Not brunch...Lunch. I don't like most breakfast foods...except for bacon, which I adore.

This week I ran across a breakfast recipe I thought I would like. My husband loves pancakes. I think they taste like soggy imitation maple flavored sponges. I'll eat one as long as it's very thin and saturated in syrup and butter. If he makes pancakes, I politely choke down one or two crepe like concoctions and eat 8 pieces of bacon to kill the taste. I could easily go the rest of my life without pancakes and not miss them. So, imagine his surprise when I brought him a recipe for pancakes. Special pancakes. Cake Batter Pancakes.

Ingredients you will need
Like most recipes, there are lots on online for this recipe. The recipe I used as my inspiration is from:


Of course, I have never seen a recipe I didn't think I could improve upon so I did make some minor changes. Here's what you will need to start:

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cake mix (the recipe called for Betty Crocker Supermoist yellow cake mix but I used French Vanilla cake mix instead)
1 Tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Mix dry ingredients
Now, add two large eggs, a teaspoon of vanilla (I use cheap imitation vanilla but usually add a little extra to compensate) and 1-2 cups of milk. Start by adding just one cup of milk.

Begin mixing in the wet ingredients
After adding the eggs, vanilla and one cup milk, begin to slowly add more milk. It will probably take about a cup more. Just add a little at a time until the mixture is the consistency of traditional pancake batter.

Add additional milk until consistency of pancake batter
Set the pancake batter to the side. In a separate bowl, make vanilla glaze. To make glaze, take 2 Tablespoons of butter, soften.  To the softened butter, add 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 Tablespoon milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Mix until smooth.  If it's not thin enough, add just a little more milk but be careful, you don't want to make it too thin.

Mix until thin and smooth
Icing or frosting is firmer and holds its shape. Glazes are thin enough to pour and drip down over the edges of something. Glazes are really just thin frosting.

Thin enough to pour but not runny
Liberally pour sprinkles in both the batter and the glaze. It looks so festive and happy you can't help but smile while you cook.  It's like a party in your kitchen that will soon move to your stomach.

A happy sight
Double happiness

Pouring the batter
Cook like traditional pancakes. Pour onto a hot griddle. When little bubbles start to appear, flip.
Flecks of sprinkles decorate breakfast
Pat of butter after flipping
As you finish the first batch, place in a dish and cover with aluminum foil. Place in a low oven to keep warm as you finish cooking the pancakes. Pour glaze over pancakes immediately before serving. Add a little powdered sugar and extra sprinkles on top. You can never be too festive.

What do you drink with cake batter pancakes? A frozen coffee beverage. This is along the lines of a Starbucks Frappuccino or McDonald's Iced Coffee drink. To make McDonald's iced coffee you simply mix 1/4 cup vanilla syrup, 1/4 cup half-n-half and 1 cup cold coffee. I make my iced coffee even better...

Iced Coffee Drink
Put one cup ice cream in a blender. I used vanilla but you can use different flavors depending on what you like. Next, add two cups cold coffee. If not cold, add a little crushed ice. Do not use warm or hot coffee. Blend well.
Why pay $3 bucks when you can make it yourself for pennies?

Buy reusable containers

Are you one of those people who spends $3-4 dollars a day on fancy coffee drinks? Well, stop it! It's so easy to make your own and take it with you. For less time than you spend waiting in the drive thru at McDonald's, you could make this delicious iced coffee and save tons of money. If you spend $3 a day on drinks, it will cost you $1,095 a year. Of course, some of those savings will be eaten up by Weight Watchers fees if you drink this high calorie drink every day.

Cake Batter Pancakes with Iced Coffee

I have to admit, we really do eat like Kings. Even I liked the cake batter pancakes.

Best Topeka Grocery Deal August 8-14, 2012

The best grocery deal I discovered this week was at Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee has canned vegetables on sale for 39 cents a can.  How good a deal is this?

Hy-Vee Deal of the Week
One thing I teach in my couponing classes is the value of keeping a "price list" of at least the 100 most common items your family purchases. Keep your grocery receipts for a couple of months and start analying what products you purchase most often. Then build a price list of those 100 items comparing prices between stores. Always paying the least amount for your most common grocery purchases will save you significantly more money over time than clipping coupons.

A page from my price book

I keep a spreadsheet of the prices of the major items I buy for my family. I compare the prices between Wal-Mart, Dillon's and HyVee. I have found that no one store is the cheapest in town but rather all three stores have at least some items that are cheaper than the other two.  By keeping a comparison chart of the three major stores, I can use it when I shop other stores. Is Dollar Tree or Apple Market selling something cheaper than the other stores? I just look up the price on my list.  It is impossible without a price sheet to remember every price on every product, especially if they are only a few cents apart.

I was able to refer to my price book and see store brand green beans normally cost about 69 cents at HyVee and Dillons and 68 cents at WalMart.  Green beans for 39 cents a can is 29 cents less per can than the cheapest price in town so I bought 24 cans.  24 cans of green beans will last me several months since my husband hates green beans.  I'm not even sure how well he will sleep at night knowing they are in the house. I "saved" $6.96 by buying the beans on sale and stockpiling them for future use. It appeared all the HyVee brand canned vegetables were on sale so you could mix and match the canned green beans, corn, peas, etc.

HyVee also has butter on sale this week for $1.49.  Store brand butter at WalMart is around $2.68.  If you use butter, buying HyVee's sale butter will save you about $1.18 a package which is a significant savings.  There was a sign stating there was a limit of 2 but it did not indicate if this was per customer or per transaction.  I did not see anything in the ad stating a limit.

If you are interested in taking a couponing/money saving class please feel free to contact me at ksfarmgirl@live.com.  Classes cost just $15.00 a person (five people or less) or $10 a person for classes of 6 or more. A one-on-one session is $30. Each class runs about 90 minutes and is full of tons of money-saving advice which will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Crisps

There are all kinds of recipes on the Internet for "fruit salsa".  I finally got around to trying it and I must admit, it's tremendous. I made it last night and my granddaughter gobbled it up. I think kids of all ages will enjoy it! And it's cheap...I added up all the ingredients and this dessert cost about $3.50.  Here's how I made mine:

Yummy fruit

Different recipes call for different fruit. I just went with what I had in the house: a half can of chunked up pineapple left over from another recipe, one and half bananas, about half a clamshell (around 8 ounces) of fresh blueberries and strawberries I bought at Aldi's and one apple. I added about 2 Tablespoons of sugar, and a Tablespoon of lemon juice (to prevent the fruit from discoloring) and mixed. 

Tortillas coated with butter

Next, spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Take four flour tortillas and cut them up like a pizza into triangular shapes.  I just stacked them all together and actually used my pizza cutter. I melted about 2 Tablespoons of butter in the microwave then brushed both sides of the tortilla with butter with a pastry brush. 

Crisps ready for the oven

I put a little sugar (about 3 Tablespoons) and cinnamon (about 1 Tablespoon) into an old spice bottle and mixed together. I never can understand people who buy pre-mixed cinnamon and sugar. I'm lazy, but not that lazy. Plus, I'm cheap.

Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar directly onto the cut up tortillas.  The more the better I always say. Don't worry if you get some on the cooking sheet. This is a great job to give kids. Put into a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. I start checking the crisps after about 15 minutes and then take them out when done.


Put a little fruit in a bowl and surround with some cinnamon crisps. Use the crisps to bring the fruit salsa to your watering mouth. Delicious!

I think this would make a great appetizer for any party. It would look so pretty with the fruit salsa in a glass bowl with the crisps arranged around it. It's also just a fantastic way to use up overripe fruit. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

How to Make Perfect Pot Roast with Onions, Carrots & Potatoes

Growing up, I watched my Grandma make pot roast. Grandma would put the roast in a cast iron skillet, pile potato and maybe a little onion around the meat and toss on a little salt and pepper. The final touch was a swatch of aluminum foil she threw on top, a shiny roast hat.

So, I grew up making roast the same way. A lot of time it was dry and chewy so we drenched it in A-1 to rehydrate it. Or I put it in the crock pot with a bunch of water before I left for work for a 8-hour slow soak  and ended up with mushy meat.

I thought I didn't like meat. It wasn't the meat, it was my cooking.

Here's how to make a perfect roast. It's simple and it's easy.
Marinate overnight
First, marinate the meat overnight. This is cooking for real people. I just put the roast in a gallon size baggie with worchestershire sauce--nothing fancy. Worchestershire sauce is primarily malt vinegar, molasses and spices. If you don't have worchestershire sauce, use soy sauce or vinegar or lemon juice.
Add a rub for flavor and crust
After marinating overnight, take out the meat. Pat dry. Now over with spices. I like to use Butt Rub. Let meat sit for about an hour to bring back to room temperature before cooking. Cold meat won't cook evenly.
I did not name this product
Rubs add flavor. A rub is just a mix of salt, sugar and spices. It's even easy to make your own if you are not lazy. I am kind of lazy.
Sear the Meat
Now pay attention. This is an important step. Heat a little oil in a skillet and throw in the meat. Ok, don't literally throw it in. Just place it in. I'm not sure how literal you are and don't want to be sued if you are splashed with hot oil.

Quickly, both sides
Sear the meat on one side, turn with tongs and sear on the other side. It only takes a couple of minutes per side. Don't use a knife, if you pierce the meat, all the lovely juice will leak out.

Bacon grease
I like to cook my roast in a dutch oven. Before placing the meat in the dish, I put a dollop of bacon grease in the bottom. You heard me...bacon grease. If you are a health nut, this blog might not be for you.

Wow! Good job!
Now, just step back and admire the work you have accomplished so far. You're doing great! Wouldn't the world be such a better place if we all talked to each other like we talk to two year olds?
Yes, more bacon grease
We are now going to do something else that will make your doctor cringe. Throw a little more bacon grease in a bowl. If you don't save your bacon grease, I don't know what to tell you except "start".  Use a garlic press and add a couple of cloves of garlic. Heat the mixture in the microwave until melted, about 30 seconds.

Peel vegetables
Try to convince your husband to peel and quarter 5-6 potatoes and one onion. It's ok to make promises you may not keep. He's probably use to it.
Coat with grease
Add some baby carrots and salt and pepper. Stir mixture until all the vegetables are coated with the bacon grease and garlic mixture.

Now we need to deglaze the pan. Deglaze means pour a very cold liquid into a very hot pan to loosen all the drippings. I like to use white wine. Take a drink, then pour a little in the pan. Take another drink. See, cooking is fun.
Add to meat
Pour the loosened brown gunk and drippings right on top of the roast. This is called flavor. It looks fabulous. Stick in the oven at 325 degrees for 2 1/2 hours. Sit around and enjoy the aroma while it cooks.

Ta da!
Cut against grain
Before cutting, stick a meat thermometer in it. It should read at least 160 degrees. Mine read 212 degrees. Let the meat sit for a few minutes and then cut against the grain. The meat was completely done but still moist and tender.
Unborn gravy
Now, back to the drippings and how to make gravy. If you can make good gravy, it really doesn't matter if you can cook. Gravy covers a multitude of mistakes.
Poor Cook Equalizer
Gravy is easy. Just add milk and cornstarch to the hot drippings. My trick is to add about 2 Tablespoons cornstarch to about a cup of milk (or cream). I put these two ingredients into a shakeable container. Shake until mixed well and then slowly add to the drippings. Continue to stir continuously over medium heat until the mixture thickens. Do not get distracted! This takes about 5-6 minutes. Try to control your ADHD tendencies or you will not have gravy for dinner.
Pour Liberally
This meal will make you look like a gourmet genius. That wasn't so hard now, was it?