Recently, Ben has not been feeling well. He had a sinus infection and missed three days of school last week because he was coughing so badly!  I have found that peppermint hot chocolate really helps clear the sinuses and just makes you feel better!  I was getting him hot chocolate almost every day at the Cumberland Farms store near us and it was “only” $1 per cup but then everyone in the household started wanting some and I soon realized that I needed to find a cheaper way to do this.

I got some peppermint extract but it was just too difficult to put only “one drop” into each cup of hot chocolate.  After thinking about it,  I realized that I could just make his hot chocolate as usual (from a regular packaged mix) and then add one or two Junior Mint candies to it!  Stir the hot chocolate until they have dissolved and it was just the right amount of mint!  He loves it!

A “movie theater” sized 4 oz. box of Junior Mints has about 48 pieces in it.  That is enough for at least 24 cups of peppermint hot chocolate!  Cheaper to use and easier to find than the extract!

Here is the cost breakdown (rounded):

  • Prepackaged hot chocolate mix bought at Aldi: 10 in a box for $1.19 = 12 cents each cup
  • Junior Mints bought at Dollar tree: $1 for a box of 48 (use 2) = 4 cents per cup
  • Total cost to make a cup:  16 cents (instead of $1)
  • Total cost to make 24 cups:  $3.84 (instead of  $24 !!!!!)

Not only is that a GREAT savings ($20 extra bucks stay in MY pocket!) but I love the fact that I can keep this on hand so whenever I need to I can just make some up instead of running up to the convenience store!

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Boiling eggs is simple enough and making devil eggs for hor dourves is super easy!  With the holiday season right around the corner, a lot of people start looking for an easy and inexpensive dish to take to pot lucks and gatherings.   Since eggs are relatively cheap, they are a good candidate as the beginnings of a crowd pleasing dish. Here is the recipe I use for my deviled eggs (which disappear as soon as they are put on the table!).

You will need:

  • eggs (as many as you want, each egg makes two deviled eggs)
  • mayonnaise
  • yellow mustard
  • garlic salt
  1. Put the eggs into a pot of water (the water should cover the eggs) and bring it to a boil on the stove.
  2. Once the water has come to a rolling boil (BIG bubbles in the water, moving fast), turn the burner OFF and cover the pot with a lid.  Leave the pot on the stove, covered, for half an hour
  3. After half an hour, drain the eggs and fill the pot with cold water and let the eggs sit in it for a few minutes to cool them down
  4. Peel the eggs and rinse them off and pat them dry
  5. Once all the eggs are peeled, cut them in half, longways
  6. Scoop out the yolks (yellow part) and place them into a small mixing bowl.  Place the whites onto a plate lined with a paper towel (so the eggs don’t slide around)
  7. Once you have all the eggs cut and yolks in a bowl, add a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise and a squirt or two of yellow mustard.  Don’t add too much mayonnaise or mustard at first, because it can cause your filling to be too runny.  Remember, you can add more as you go.
  8. Mix the yolks, mayonnaise and mustard really well with a fork (or electric mixer), working out the lumps as you mix.  If the mixture is too dry, add a little more mayonnaise.  Mix until smooth.
  9. Add a dash of garlic salt and mix well.
  10. Take a ziplock bag and open it wide.  Scrape the yolk mixture into the bag and then zip it shut.
  11. Place everything into the fridge until you are ready to serve the eggs.
  12. When you are ready to serve the eggs, cut off a corner of the ziplock bag and squeeze the filling into the egg whites.
  13. Top each deviled egg with a dash of paprika (optional)
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EASY THANKSGIVING DESSERTS FOR KIDS

It seems as if a lot of kids don’t really care for pie and so I was on the lookout for a different dessert idea for the kids that they would enjoy.  A few years ago, I ran across an recipe in a magazine for a sugar cookie that was decorated to look like a pumpkin pie.  I have made that “pie” for my kids every year since then (with a few changes) and it’s always a hit!  Not to mention that it is super simple to make!

YOU WILL NEED:

a large circular baking pan (I use one that is 16 inches across)

1 box of yellow cake mix

1 T water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 can of white frosting

yellow & red food coloring

a handful of chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 350

Mix together the cake mix, water, oil and eggs

Stir well (by hand is fine)

Dump all of the dough onto the round pan and spread out evenly

Bake in the oven 10-13 minutes or so (until the top starts to lightly brown)

Remove from oven and let cool

Keep the cookie ON THE PAN

Put the whole can of frosting into a mixing bowl and add red and yellow food coloring and mix well until it is the shade of orange that you want to use.

Dump all the frosting onto the cookie and spread evenly

Trim the edges of the cookie with the chocolate chips (to resemble a “crust”)

When it’s time for dessert, simply cut into wedges and serve!  You can even top it with whipped cream if you like to make it more “authentic”.

From my home to yours, may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

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One of the new favorite meals here at my home is Quesadillas (pronounced:  casadia) .  They are simple to make, super-fast to get from the kitchen to the table, really cheap and you can fill them with just about anything you desire.  You can use a Quesadilla Maker like the one above or you can learn how to make quesadillas in a skillet or pan.

I use my cast iron skillet because it is easy to clean up and I love cooking with it!  So, here are the items you will need to make the quesadillas:

  • Skillet or pan
  • Oil or non-stick spray ( I use regular vegetable oil)
  • Flour tortillas
  • Fillings of your choice (Great way to use up leftovers!  We just use cheddar cheese)
  • Toppings of your choice (sour cream, salsa, etc)

Heat up your pan on the burner.

Take the tortillas and either brush on some oil or spray with non-stick spray ONE SIDE of the tortilla

Place the tortilla, oil side down, on the hot skillet

Place fillings onto the tortilla

Take another tortilla and again put some oil or spray on it

Place that on top of the one in the pan, this time oil side UP

Once the cheese in the middle starts to melt, flip the quesadilla so you can cook the other side of it (I use a fork to pick up the edge of the quesadilla and then just use my hand to actually flip it over so that I do not drop the fillings out from in between the tortillas)

Once both sides have slightly browned and the fillings are warm and cheese melted, the quesadilla is done cooking so you can take it out of the pan

I use a pizza cutter to cut my tortillas into fourths

Serve with desired toppings

 

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Sorry this post is a little late….. I was recovering from the party I hosted yesterday for the three birthdays we have in my family this month.  For as long as I can remember, we have always gotten our family birthday cakes at Publix.  Something about their buttercreme icing just cannot be replicated.  This year, money was tighter than usual (like REALLY tight!) so store bought cakes were out.  Even at $10 each it would have cost $30 that I did not have.  I decided to go thru my recipe box and create a special homemade cake for each birthday being celebrated.

My father loves coconut so that was the choice for him.  My daughter Coral opted for a red velvet cake.  I made a chocolate fudge cake as my birthday cake.  Since I am not so great at icing layered cake and I really don’t like the taste of canned icing and I thought a “sheet” cake still in the pan would be kind of un-festive, I decided to make them all bundt cakes!

In my opinion bundt cakes are severely underrated!  They are super easy!  You can make them from a boxed mix or from scratch.  They come out in one beautiful, round, molded piece that looks really pretty (I use a fluted mold).  No special icing techniques are required.  They are always SO moist inside too!  For presentation you simply dump the mold upside down onto a plate and the cake comes right out!  Simple!  You just have to make sure that you use a lot of baking spray so that the cake does not stick to the pan at all.

The coconut cake (made from a scratch recipe) got several layers of coconut glaze brushed all over it and then I sprinkled flaked coconut over the top of it.    The red velvet cake (made partially from scratch) got cream cheese icing drizzled all over the top of it so that it dripped down the sides intentionally.  The chocolate fudge cake (from a boxed mix) got chocolate icing and white icing drizzled all over the top of it for a really pretty mixed effect!

To make the icing drizzle, I just put some icing into a glass measuring cup and heated it in the microwave for 20 seconds.  This makes the icing much thinner and easier to drizzle with.  I stirred the warm icing  really well and slowly poured it over the top of the cake.   You can make different patterns with the icing this way too.

Total cost for all three cakes:  $7 (I had some of the ingredients on hand).

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I know I have posted before about leftovers and also about making a monthly menu plan.  Today when I was cleaning out my fridge and taking inventory of the freezer so I could plan my menu for August, it occured to me that I left out a clever tip I use every week.

When I clean out the fridge, I take all of the leftovers out and go thru all the shelves making sure everything in there is fresh and edible.  I put the leftovers on the counter and throw away the stuff that is no good.  Often I still have some leftovers that are only a day old or so and I am not willing to throw away good food.  Because the leftovers have been in the fridge for a day or two, my family does not “see” them there.  Kind of like if you open the fridge for a glass of water and the milk is on the same shelf, you just don’t really “see” it there.

To combat this, I repackage my leftovers, taking them out of the current container they are in and putting them in a different container (or even a storage bag) and then place them back into the fridge on the leftover shelf (the bottom shelf in our fridge is where all the leftovers are kept).  That way when the family opens the fridge and looks around, they see a different container in there that was NOT there this morning and it catches their attention and are more likely to eat it.

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