Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast

Monday, November 14th, 2011

To say I was nervous about cooking the Thanksgiving turkey would have been an understatement last year. Cooking the perfect turkey seemed a culinary challenge that I just was not equipped to do.  In the year’s past that I had taken on the task of hosting our Thanksgiving dinner, my grandmother would provide the turkey for us.  Last year, I really wanted to see if I could live up to the challenge of cooking the perfect turkey.

A marathon of Martha Stewart how-to television watching ensued. I read every blog and turkey website I could on how to cook the bird. Once armed with my aresenal of knowlege, I decided to cook two turkey breasts based on the fact that no one really loved the dark meat and I thought it would be a great way to dip my toe in the water of turkey roasting.

I read a lot of recipes and decided on Ina Garten’s Herb Roasted Turkey Breast. Everything about this turkey sounded delicious to me and the recipe had rave reviews. Ina had never lead me astray and so I created two of her delicious turkeys for our dinner.

This turkey is so moist and flavorful. A paste is created from fresh herbs, dried mustard, lemon juice, and minced garlic.  I relied on my inexpensive handheld food chopper to make quick work of chopping the herbs. The white wine added to the bottom of the pan offers a delicious finish on top of the turkey and keeps the meat from drying out.

Armed with this simple turkey breast recipe and my Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Side Dishes and my Make-Ahead Thanksgiving appetizers, I guarantee that you will be on track for the perfect first Thanksgiving in your house. There is no need to be nervous with great planning and fabulously foolproof recipes.

Of course, turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving Day in our house. Don’t forget that a Weeknight Turkey Breast can yield amazing lunches for your family. These are way better than lunch meat and just as easy to prepare as any other weeknight meal.


Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast

1 whole bone-in turkey breast, 6 1/2 to 7 pounds

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons good olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup dry white wine


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a paste. Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers and smear half of the paste directly on the meat. Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin. Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Roast the turkey for 2- 2 1/2 hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest and meatiest areas of the breast. (I test in several places.) If the skin is over-browning, cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil. When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with the pan juices spooned over the turkey.

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

Serving Size: 6
Source: Adapted from Food Network (Barefoot Contessa)

How to Use a Meat Thermometer

The cooking timeline for your turkey will depend on the weight of the turkey breast you purchase.  The best investment a novice chef can buy for her kitchen is a meat thermometer that can let you know when your turkey has reached the desired temperature. I have a simple instant-read thermometer (less than $10),  but you can also make the investment into a digital thermometer that you can beep at you when your bird is done (less than $20).

Make sure you stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey breast to get the most accurate reading. For this turkey breast, you want the thermometer to be at 170 degrees for a perfectly cooked breast. The turkey breast, above, recommended 165 degrees, but 170 degrees is what you should aim for. Be sure to test the bird in several spots to make sure that it is cooked through.


Here are some basic cooking guidelines for how long to cook that turkey breast. These turkey breast cooking guidelines are for roasting the bird at 325 degrees.

Turkey Breast Cooking Guidelines

2 to 3 pounds 1½ to 2 hours

4 to 6 pounds 1½ to 2¼ hours

7 to 8 pounds 2¼ to 3¼ hours

Splendidly Homemade Magazine

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Today I am excited to share with you a fun  online magazine that you can enjoy all winter long. Splendidly Homemade Magazine is a beautifully designed magazine filled with great tutorials and pictures showcasing some amazing bloggers crafting and sharing their recipes for a perfect and joy-filled holiday season. You can learn how to do everything from making the perfect pie crust to adding adorable yo-yo embellishments to your holiday attire to creating stockings from old sweaters.

In this issue I have created a fun and easy No-Bake Peppermint Cheesecake in a Jar that would make the perfect hostess gift.  I am also sharing some cute ways to package those jars that make this an elegant gift to share with someone special in your life.

If you want to see this project, just head on over to the magazine to get the scoop. Did I mention that this requires no baking?

Once you are done making these No-Bake Peppermint Cheesecakes, you can put your peppermint extract to work and whip up a delicious Homemade Peppermint Mocha with my easy recipe.

Just be warned…

These are highly addictive and taste like a little bit of heaven.

I had a hard time just eating one or having just one cup of coffee! You can blame me for your holiday weight this year!

You can enjoy wonderful holiday content from all of these fabulous contributors in Splendidly Homemade:

Gina from The Shabby Creek Cottage
Liz from Hoosier Homemade
Barbara from Barbara Bakes
Holly from iGoBoGo
Tiffany from Eat at Home
Kellie from Nest of Posies
Laura from Real Mom Kitchen
Jessica from Kohler Created
Ashley from Ashley

Splendidly Homemade is available for free online and a Kindle version of this is available for a mere, $.99 cents.  Give them a Like on Facebook and follow their latest news on Twitter.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Easy Coffee Filter Flowers

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Maybe you were one of those lucky kids chopping up coffee filter flowers in elementary school. I never had a tutorial on this in my art class though, but I have been dying to make coffee filter flowers and wanted to share with you just how easy and inexpensive it is to make these for a fun table centerpiece for the holidays or just a few posies on your nightstand in those cold winter months.  If you made the Coffee Filter Wreath from last week, you should have enough left to make a few of these pretty posies!

To begin our flowers, we will need to dye our coffee filters. The trick with getting these to look like real flowers is to divide the filters into three different bowls with three different shades of dye.

Pour a 1/2 cup of hot water into each dish, two tablespoons of vinegar, and ten drops of food coloring your first bowl. In the next bowl add the hot water and vinegar, but add only eight drops of food coloring. In the last bowl, we will be doing the same thing again, but only six drops of food coloring. Submerge fifteen coffee filters into each bowl and wait ten to fifteen minutes.

I used the Betty Crocker pink neon food coloring for this project (leftover from our marbled egg dying from this past year) so these only required about five minutes in the bowls.  Just keep half an eye on them until you reach the desired color that you are going for.

Once the coffee filters are done, you need to spread them out on an old towel and let them dry.  Ignore comments from your husband like, “Yum, yum! Coffee filters for dinner?” or, “Oh, wow! ANOTHER craft project?”

You are on the fast track to being another Martha Stewart even though the house looks like a bomb exploded and it WILL be coffee filters for dinner tonight. You can’t be good at everything.

If you want to speed up the process a bit, you can blow dry these coffee filters. Again, ignore your husband when he busts in on you hunched over with coffee filters blowing around the bathroom as you blow dry them. Just keep thinking,

“Martha would totally do this…or,ahem, she has PEOPLE who would totally do this. Totally.”

Grab some floral tape and floral wire from your craft supplies (or over in the floral section of the craft supply store. Cut the wire to the length that you desire and twist and wrap the floral wire with the floral tape until the wire is covered. You can also cover a wooden skewer with floral wire if you want a flower that stands straight up. I prefer the wire because you can bend it a bit and make the flowers a little more droopy so they look a little more natural.

Here is a handy chart for what we are going for with these. You need two of the darkest coffee filters cut like this for the center of the flower, two coffee filters in the medium dye for the middle of your flower, and just one coffee filter cut like this for the outer part of the flower.

To make the center, fold your coffee filter in half, in half again, in half again, and then in half again (four folds). Take your scissors and cut it as pictured above. Repeat with another filter in the same shade.

To make the middle of your flower, fold your coffee filter in half, in half again, in half again (three folds). Take your scissors and cut it as pictured above (but better than me since I am not the brightest with my cutting). Repeat with another filter in the same shade.

To make the outside of your flower, fold your coffee filter in half and then in half again (two folds). Take your scissors and cut a scalloped edge to your flower. You just need one of these.

Stack your flowers (still folded) and then trim the tiniest little end off of the bottom of them. This will create a small hole so that we can insert the wire into the center of it.

Slip the first filter over your wire twist it at the base, and then wrap a little floral tape around it to hold it all in place. Repeat with the next dark filter, than the each medium filter, and finish with the exterior of your flower. Finish the flower with a little more floral tape to secure everything in place.

Behold your posy! Isn’t she pretty? Make as many as you like for a fun addition to any room. I saved a stack of coffee filters and plan to make this pretty flowers to adorn my daughter’s birthday presents this year.

These posies have found a home on my daughter’s nightstand in her new big girl room. I found a short glass vase for $3.99 at Meijer Supermarket that was just the perfect size to hold three of these coffee filter flowers.  I think these would make such a fun birthday centerpiece addition though with hanging tissue paper pom poms in the same shades for a birthday party.

Right next to those flowers is this handmade lampshade that I made. I will show you how I did that last week. It is another fun, easy, and inexpensive craft that would be a cute addition to any room.

What craft projects have you been working on? Did you ever make coffee filter flowers when you were a kid?  Feel free to share any links to what you are working on! Access all of our craft fun on MomAdvice by visiting our Craft Section. Happy crafting, friends!

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Homemade Peppermint Mocha

Monday, November 7th, 2011


With the holidays just around the corner, the one treat I love to indulge in while doing my holiday shopping is a delicious Peppermint Mocha. I was ordering these year round until they came out with the Salted Caramel Mocha, which seemed to satisfy my out-of-season mocha cravings. Of course, wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to make these at home and save your money for your Christmas presents this year?

I hit the kitchen to try and whip up a batch of these at home. Once I had my basic mocha recipe down from my DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte & my DIY Salted Caramel Mocha, it was just a matter of figuring out how to create the peppermint flavor at home out of ingredients I had in my pantry.

You don’t have to create the peppermint syrup yourself, although it is really easy to do and made from pantry ingredients.  Simply call ahead to your favorite Starbucks joint and ask if they have a spare bottle of Peppermint Syrup that you can buy or if they can order it for you, if they happen to be running low. A bottle runs less than $10 or approximately the cost of two of those coffee drinks that you would buy. Split a bottle with a friend if you don’t picture yourself drinking one all winter long or save it for this summer to make my favorite DIY Peppermint Mocha Frappes that I make with frozen coffee in the summer months.

These are every bit as good as Starbucks, but costs a lot less than your coffee shop ones. I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as you have enjoyed the other coffee creations from our kitchen!



Homemade Peppermint Mocha


1 cup milk, steamed
1 cup very strong coffee (4 tablespoons coffee grounds to 1 cup of hot water, I prepared this in my French Press, but you can brew a strong drip pot if you prefer)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of sugar
2-3 tablespoons peppermint syrup (you can use my recipe below or ask behind the counter at Starbucks for a prepared bottle that you can use all winter long)
Whipped cream (optional)
Chocolate Syrup (optional)
Crushed Peppermints (optional)


Prepare your hot water in a kettle. Add four tablespoons of your favorite coffee grounds to your French Press. Pour 1 cup of hot water over them and allow the coffee to steep for four minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a pot, heat up one cup of milk until it is steaming. Froth the milk with a wire whisk or an immersion blender until it is nice and foamy.

In your coffee cup, mix together the prepared coffee, cocoa powder, sugar, and peppermint coffee syrup until the sugar and cocoa powder are dissolved and there are no lumps. Pour the milk foam over the top of the coffee/mocha mixture and stir to incorporate. Top with whipped cream, a generous drizzle of chocolate syrup, and crushed peppermints.

Note- This is just a base recipe that can be played with to your own tastes and preferences.  It is meant to be personalized depending on how you like your latte!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Serving Size: 1



Simple syrups are just as simple as their name to create. It is just a matter of dissolving sugar into water, reducing it a bit,  and then adding your flavoring of choice for your favorite beverages. Once you get this technique down, you can create a variety of coffee drinks and cocktails for the holiday season.

This Peppermint Syrup would make a fantastic gift to give to a friend or loved one. Place this syrup in a jar and tie with festive ribbon. In a basket add your syrup, a good quality coffee, cocoa powder,  a festive mug, and candy canes to stir, along with this recipe. So easy and a great way to start anyone’s day.


Homemade Peppermint Syrup


1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons peppermint extract


In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the peppermint extract. Cool to room temperature and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to three months.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Serving Size: 5-7 (depending on how much you add to your coffee)

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Easy Holiday Entertaining Recipes

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
(mobile upload on set with Walmart)

In August, I got the opportunity to head to Bentonville to shoot some segments on holiday entertaining with Walmart. One of the best parts of my job is getting to do filming like this. I will admit,  I actually had so much fun doing my video that I asked if they would let me shoot another video while I was there.

I hope you love these ideas for easy holiday entertaining as much as I do. I am sharing with you an easy barbecue ranch dip that you can create with a chicken bite platter that you can pick up over in the deli, as well as a simple smoked salmon dip that can be served on top of a toasted baguette. These easy appetizers will be my dishes to share at our family gatherings and fun holiday potluck dinners we have coming up, and I hope they can be easy dishes to try in your house too.

How to Make a Monogrammed Coffee Filter Wreath

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

When my book proposal went out in the literary world, I decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into two bedrooms that were both in need of a serious overhaul, to prevent me from thinking about the big decisions being made. All of that nervous energy turned into fuel into creating my daughter and son’s room into what I had envisioned their new big kid spaces to be.

Over the next few weeks, I wanted to showcase some of the crafts that I created and how I decorated their bedrooms on a budget. The first tutorial I wanted to share was for this easy monogrammed coffee filter wreath for my daughter’s wall.  I am not the first to create a coffee filter wreath and I know I won’t be the last. I read a billion tutorials for making these and then decided to do it my own way with a few tips from each tutorial. When you create yours, I am sure you will do the same on your wreath to create a masterpiece for your home.

These are a beautiful accent to decorate any room in your house. These would also make fantastic holiday gifts for your friends, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, or teachers and cost about $8-10 in supplies.

Let’s get started. You need a wreath or wreath form of your your choice (I found this flat Styrofoam wreath at Hobby Lobby), a package of 200 coffee filters, hot glue gun, glue sticks (you will need about six for this project), a screwdriver, a lightweight monogram letter of your choice, and a can of spray paint of your choice.

Fold your coffee filter in half as shown here.

Fold your coffee filter in half again as shown here.

On the tip of this you will apply your hot glue and then fold the tip a bit to apply it to the wreath. Secure the glued end to the wreath, flattening it a bit and adjusting as needed.

The top of your filters will look like this. That screwdriver can go into the center to help push the filter into the wreath and save your hands from getting burned. You can risk it and just burn those hands up, but I found the tip of the screwdriver really works to help prevent burns as you add those filters in. I wish I could take pictures of myself doing this as I am doing it, but, unfortunately, I only have two hands and no one to work the camera for me.

Start filling the wreath in with the filters all over. Anywhere that you see that wreath form sticking out should be covered with your filters. You can bend and twist them into the spots, securing these with hot glue. Catch up on all of your favorite shows since you need to do this approximately 150 times.

Please don’t judge me on my favorite show. A girl needs an escape when doing her billions of loads of laundry and other mundane tasks around the house. It makes me feel hip and chic, unlike the 33 year-old woman sitting on her carpet making a coffee filter wreath.

Keep on going around and around and around. Don’t worry if it isn’t even, just do the best you can.  You can trim it all up in the end and no one will ever know.

Once it is all filled in on top, we need to cover the sides of the wreath so we don’t see any of the wreath form peeking out. Fold the coffee filters as I showed you above and this time we will lay them flat against the side to cover the wreath.

Just keep overlapping this final layer to cover up the wreath form as I have pictured here.  This wreath will be very full and the little spots that aren’t covered won’t be seen, so don’t worry!

Once you flip it over, you will see that the back layer is a tad longer than the other layers. Trim those up with a pair of sharp scissors and cut them down so they fit in with the other layers on your wreath.

Once the wreath is all trimmed up, you can mount a monogrammed letter of your choice. I spray painted mine green to match my daughter’s room. I found this little letter at Michael’s back by the wooden craft supplies. This letter was just, $1.99. The key to this is to find one that is lightweight so it stays on easily. Hot glue the back of the letter and secure it in place on your wreath. You can then hang your wreath with ribbon or just hang it on a nail, as I did here, to keep things sweet and simple.

This wall in her room is making me very, very happy right now. It is the first thing I see when I walk up the steps and was so inexpensive to do.  I framed three of my favorite pictures of her, all printed in black-and-white.

The, “Will We have Rainbows Day After Day?,” printable was found for free printing on Making It Lovely.  I found a frame for this at Michael’s for half off and printed it on my printer at home.  It is so sweet and fits perfectly with her personality and color scheme.

I could not be happier with how this wreath turned out and definitely recommend making one or two for yourself or someone you love.

Don’t toss the rest of your coffee filters out after making this wreath. Next week I will show you how I made this bouquet of coffee filter flowers to adorn a nightstand. No one will believe these are made from this household item and it can be a fun craft to decorate any table in your home.

What craft projects have you been working on? Feel free to share any links to what you are working on! Access all of our craft fun on MomAdvice by visiting our Craft Section. Happy crafting, friends!

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Happy Halloween from the Clark Family

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Happy Halloween to your family from ours!  I wanted to share with you a few of the pictures I took of the kids in their Halloween costumes. This year the requests were to be a Ninja and to be Rapunzel.

Last year’s fairy costume that we picked up from Cracker Barrel magically transformed into the perfect Rapunzel dress. After buying a terrible, terrible wig to go with it from the local costume shop, I found myself at the Disney store to pick up the authentic Rapunzel hair that she could play dress-up with all year long. She was so excited when she saw it and was willing to compromise on not having the official Rapunzel dress as long as she could wear a pink sleeved shirt underneath to make it look like the real Rapunzel.

The Ninja outfit I picked up at Walmart for  $12. Of course the only way I could get my son to agree to do pictures with his sister were in full Ninja attack mode.  After we were done with the photos, I couldn’t stop laughing and looking at them. I think my daughter has her mama’s flair for the dramatics. I wonder if I will be watching her on the stage like my parents watched me.

Not to be outdone by our children, my husband and I schemed and dreamed of costumes for months this year.  I don’t mean to gush, but it is moments like this when I look at my husband and think, “How did I get this lucky?” I have been with this man since he was fifteen. Our parents used to drop us off for our dates because neither of us could drive. We were high school sweethearts that really worked out, and I think I know everything a girl could know about him.  Then something like this comes up, and he surprises me.

In case you couldn’t tell from the pictures, we went as Marry Poppins and Bert from my favorite childhood movie.  We both wanted to make sure we got the look right.  The clothes we both already owned. The bow tie I am wearing was his  from our third prom together (I still had it in a box of mementos from our high school days). I tied grosgrain ribbon around my waist and grabbed the umbrella from my husband’s car. We found Ryan’s hat and gloves at Walmart and my hat from a local costume shop.  The broom was an inexpensive broom from Target that he took the stitching apart and spray painted with a $.98 can of spray paint from Walmart.  I got a sprig of daisies to weave into the hat and just took my giant purse that I use daily as my, “carpet bag.” We probably spent about $20 or so on the whole look, but had the best time making these outfits happen.

I did splurge and buy myself a tube of fancy red lipstick. I have always wanted to wear red lipstick, but never felt confident enough to do it.  I am hoping to wear this on a date night or two.  The color is Red Zin from Bare Escentuals and I am really liking it for a little something different.  Maybe this old girl can surprise her husband once in awhile too!

Happy Halloween, everyone! Have a safe and fun night with your family and friends this evening!

Behind the Scenes with Aldi Supermarket

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

This past week I got the unique opportunity to step behind the scenes and find out more about Aldi Supermarket and the products that they offer their customer. As a longtime fan of the grocery retailer, I could not wait to see how this company operated and, frankly, how in the world they can offer food for such a low price.

During the trip I got to do a wine and cheese tasting, got a grocery store tour to learn more about how their stores were set up, and then I got to participate in a blind taste-testing of the products to see how they compared with other national brands.  There was truly not a single element of this trip that I was not fascinated with.

The first question on everyone’s mind was how do they get their prices so low?

This is an answer that we were told would take years to explain, but the main points all pointed to simple cost-cutting measures, employee training that goes beyond other grocery stores,  a limited selection of items, smart store design, and in-house private labels. The savings are in the big things like having baking items on pallets and dairy items on rolling carts so the employees don’t need to stock shelves and then are reflected in the smaller things like the quarter deposit for your cart and bagging those groceries yourself.

All of these little and big things translate into great prices for their customers.

If you have ever stood in a line at Aldi, one thing you will see is that these cashiers work at lightning speed and can wait on customers quicker than any other store I have ever been to. You may not know it, but Aldi offers smart packaging that can speed up your wait time at their store. In this picture is a single bag of chips, simply held at all different angles. Practically every corner of their bags and boxes have a UPC code that can make scanning your items that much faster.  Go ahead and take a peek in your pantry at your Aldi items and you will see it too. It is one of those things that you may have never noticed, but translates into saving time for you.

The typical Aldi store only has between 6-8 employees and it is common for their employees to celebrate 15, 20, or 25 years of service. They pay their employees significantly higher than the national average and with 20 hours a week, they give their employees full health insurance benefits. Employees go through extensive training and they do everything from putting out the new pallets of food to ringing up the customers to tidying the store. It is this efficiency and the smaller pay rolls that translate into big savings for their customers.

Perhaps, the most surprising thing for me was discovering the amazing wine selection that Aldi offers. I admitted that I walked by the wine section of the store because the low prices on the bottles made me question the quality of the wine. I will never look at their wine section the same again after their wine tasting.  Don’t believe me? Aldi has received many awards and accolades for their wines.

Here are just a few of the accolades that Aldi has received. Did I mention these bottles are all under $6?

Wine Spectator

Sunshine Bay 2009 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc
Best Values Award
Received 85 points

2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti
Received 85 points

Beverage Testing Institute

Landshut (Germany) Riesling Mosel 2010
2010 World Value Wine Challenge- Top 10 White Wine $8 and Under Exceptional Value
World Wine Championships Award Silver Medal (2009)

Landshut (Germany) Sweet Red Rheinhessen 2010
World Value Wine Challenge- Top Dessert Wine $8 and Under Best Value German Dessert Wine
World Wine Championships Award Silver Medal (2009)

Toca Diamonte (Argentina) Malbec Mendoza 2009
World Wine Championships Award Bronze Medal

2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti
World Wine Championships Award Bronze Medal

Of those wines that I sampled, I fell in love with the Sunshine Bay 2009 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc, the 2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti, the Toca Diamonte (Argentina) Malbec Mendoza 2009, and the Landshut (Germany) Sweet Red Rheinhessen 2010.  Most of the bottles were $4.99, which make them quite affordable both for entertaining and for giving around the holiday season.

We paired these wines with some of Aldi’s cheese offerings which included a delicious goat cheese, a Havarti cheese, and Brie cheese. All of the cheeses were equally delicious and I am looking forward to offering these with these wines around the holidays.

I am a longtime customer and super fan of the products that Aldi offers, but the blind taste test that I participated in surprised even a super fan like me.  Aldi is challenging shoppers to switch from national brands to their private label Aldi brand for the holidays, to save their families up to fifty percent on their shopping.

We sampled many items from their holiday line and compared them to the national brands. Even though I love Aldi, I can be a bit of a food snob when it comes to certain foods like high quality cheeses and meats.

When we taste tested Tyson chicken versus Aldi chicken, I truly loved the Aldi brand better. I knew the meat that I had tasted must have been the Tyson meat, but I was dead wrong. It goes to show that sometimes we are just conditioned to believe one brand is better than the other.

Another surprise was the difference between Mrs. Smith’s apple pie versus the Aldi Belmont Deep Dish Apple Pie.  The Aldi pie is pictured on the right and you can tell just by looking at the bottom of the crust that the pie cooked and browned more evenly.  The difference in the taste was significant and the price was 28% lower.

Even being the Aldi fan girl that I am,  I came away feeling validated that the choice that I had made to shop at the store, out of necessity due to the financial strain we had been under, for our family was a good one.  The cost-cutting measures of the store do not cost-cut on the bottom line of the quality of the items in the store. In fact, the company does their best to offer a better product that the name brand.  After doing this blind taste-testing, I believe they have exceeded the standard.

If you haven’t checked out the store before, you really are missing out on so much.  I can feed my family of four for $220 for three weeks by shopping there. I do not clip coupons. I do 95% of my shopping at this store. I am rarely disappointed in the quality. If I ever was disappointed though, they offer a double guarantee and I could bring the item back for a refund and get it replaced. I don’t know very many places that offer that to their customers.

If you want to learn more about shopping at the store, I have several resources that you can check out on the site:

Aldi Supermarket

Aldi Menu Planner

Aldi Fall/Winter Menu Planner

The Aldi Queen Blog

If I was a fan girl of Aldi before, this trip took it to another level for me. I can confidently say that this store is THE place for families on a budget.  I promise, you will not be disappointed.

Let’s talk! Have you shopped at Aldi Supermarket before? Did anything surprise you about the behind the scenes look? What is your favorite item to buy at the store? Please share!

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How to Decoupage Pumpkins

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

I love to create inexpensive decorations for fall and these easy decoupaged pumpkins are a craft that I have been wanting to try for awhile after spotting this technique in an old issue of Better Homes &  Gardens Magazine. You won’t believe how easy it is to decoupage a pumpkin and since they were so easy to create, I made two to adorn each side of my console table.  Today I wanted to share with you how to create your own decoupaged pumpkin that you can do with your kids or as a fun craft after the kids head to bed.

All supplies for this project were purchased at Walmart and each pumpkin cost approximately $7 to create.

Supplies Needed For This Project

Faux Pumpkin

Modge Podge (or make your own for less)

1 package of paper cocktail napkins (in the party supplies section or in the seasonal section of the store)

Foam brush

Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

Yarn (optional)

Size 5 Double-Pointed Needles (optional)

Twist off the stem on your pumpkin. It should come off pretty easily. Set this aside for later.

Grab your stack of cocktail napkins. When choosing these, I would go for a darker color than this if you don’t want to have to do two layers. Another option would be to spray paint your pumpkin white. I just did two layers of napkins on mine, but you can do whichever works best for you.

Unfold the napkin, and then cut it into two long rectangles down the middle where the fold is.

Using your foam brush, spread your Modge Podge on the pumpkin and then cover in one of your paper napkin rectangles.  Apply the napkins very gently and try to smooth out any wrinkles as you go.  No matter what you do, there will be wrinkles and possibly tears because the napkins are so delicate.   I like to think they add a lot of character and texture to the pumpkin though.

Repeat this layer of paper all the way around. Repeat, as needed to cover the pumpkin.

Once the pumpkin is covered in paper to your satisfaction, apply one or two layers of Modge Podge over the entire pumpkin. Allow it to dry for several hours or until the glue has hardened.

Invert your dried pumpkin, and cut a square of napkin  to cover the bottom of the pumpkin. Apply two layers of Modge Podge to the bottom and any missed layers on the bottom of the pumpkin. Let it dry.

You can leave your pumpkin as is and just hot glue the top back on, but I wanted to add one other layer to these pumpkins. I knitted two leaves for each one, out of scrap yarn, to decorate the top of the pumpkin. This is a great time to use any yarn up that your kids claimed was too scratchy or the end of a ball of yarn that you just couldn’t part with.

I used this free knitted leaf pattern (leaf number one) to create these little yarn leafs for the tops of my pumpkin. The picture above shows the back of the leaf, you want the other side of the leaf to show on your pumpkin. Create your leaf stem as long as you like for your pumpkin.

Hot glue the ends of your leaves to the top of your pumpkin. Hot glue underneath the stem, and then secure it to the top of your pumpkin. Hold this all in place for a minute or two to make sure that it is secure.

Enjoy your little pumpkins in a favorite corner of your home, on your kitchen table, or wherever else a pumpkin might look beautiful. I am looking forward to using these all through the fall and I even think this gray and white one might be a perfect one for the winter holidays too!

It matches perfectly with my Yarn Wreath on my door and adds a fun element to my fall decorating.

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

11 New Pumpkin Recipes to Try This Fall

Monday, September 12th, 2011

I will admit that there is nothing that I love more than cooking with pumpkin in the kitchen.  Today I wanted to showcase eleven different ways you can use those cans of pumpkin in your kitchen and none of them happen to be pumpkin pie… at least not this week! There really are so many sweet and savory dishes that can be made from canned pumpkin and these happen to be eleven of my delicious ideas for making pumpkin work for you this year!

Have you ever tried pumpkin pasta?  Over the years this dish has become the most favorite dish for fall and one bite of this will tell you why! The kids think it looks like macaroni and cheese so it does not take much coaxing to get them to try a bite. My husband loves the turkey sausage and the meaty flavor of this dish. Me? I just love the creamy pumpkin taste in my mouth!

If you are worried about how your family will react to pumpkin pasta, scale the pumpkin back. You can do between 2/3-2 cups of pasta, depending on your personal taste. Start with a little and ease your family into the two cup ratio.

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta

Pumpkin waffles are a special tradition that are enjoyed after a day of pumpkin picking at the pumpkin patch. These are truly my favorite waffles of all the different variations we make and a fantastic way to use those cans of pumpkin in your pantry!

These will make your  house smell just like a pumpkin pie as the batter hits the hot waffle iron, filling the room with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

These are a very delicate waffle and can be tricky being pulled from your waffle iron. Add 1/4 cup extra of flour if you feel like the batter is too delicate and be sure to give these ample time in the waffle iron to set up. The crisper they are, the easier they will be to pull from your waffle iron. be sure to leave these on at least four to five minutes. If you try to take them off sooner than that, they will not taste as good or set up as nicely.

Deliciously Spiced Pumpkin Waffles

I wanted to figure out a way to use the leftover cans of pumpkin we had from our Thanksgiving feasting last year, and I decided to create my very own Baked Pumpkin Donuts with a Maple Syrup Frosting that would be the perfect use for the pumpkin leftover. What started as a way to use up leftover pumpkin is now worked into our fall activities and this year my kids will be enjoying these with big mugs of  homemade hot cocoa on our little front step outside when we do our raking this year.

These are flavorful and almost like a glass of wine, you can taste all the different flavors as you eat them. You can taste the hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, the rich pumpkin flavor, and then that maple syrup sweetness from the light glaze drizzle. The texture is different than a fried donut and more like a muffin or a good piece of cake. They are not overly sweet though and the pumpkin really seems to add a savory quality to these.

Baked Pumpkin Donuts with Maple Syrup Frosting

There are few things I love during the holidays more than a giant gingerbread waffle. I found this recipe from Rachael Ray about five years ago and it has been a family tradition every year since then. On Christmas morning together, we open our presents and I mix up these waffles to share together after the presents.

These gingerbread waffles incorporate all of the holiday flavors I love- molasses, ginger, cinnamon, brown sugar, pumpkin, and nutmeg. What more can I say? The only downfall to this recipe… you can’t eat just one!

Step out of the box and have a little gingerbread before Christmas and find yet another way to use some of that delicious pumpkin!

Gingerbread Waffles

There are few things in the world that say Christmas to me more than the flavors of gingerbread.  Our family tradition is, as I mentioned,  to indulge in Gingerbread Waffles on tree decorating day and for Christmas morning.

I am proud to say these Baked Gingerbread Donuts were a creation all my own that incorporated all of those flavors from our favorite Gingerbread Waffles into these delicious donuts. A firm believer that the donut pan is a worthy investment in any home, these donuts are proof that the investment pays off… especially around the holidays. Work these donuts into one of our family traditions this year and you will thank me for it!

Baked Gingerbread Donuts

At the first sign of fall, you will find us flipping a batch of these Pumpkin Pancakes on our griddle. In fact, the first cool morning this year, we threw these together for a fun family feast after church. I have a feeling that you will want to make a batch of these yourself every year once you have them.

These pumpkin pancakes are truly light and fluffy with just the perfect balance of pumpkin and spices. I have never experienced a more perfect pancake and a drizzle of syrup with butter makes these a delicious morning treat on a cool autumn day.

Fluffy Light Pumpkin Pancakes

A first time canning experience led to one of my favorite hostess gifts of all time- a delicious Pumpkin Butter perfect for spreading on dinner rolls! You can triple your batch and let it cook in the slow cooker for six hours to make a larger quantity without a lot of effort. Keep this recipe in mind when creating those holiday gifts!

Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins are my family’s favorite side dish if it fall or the dead of summer. I try to make sure to stockpile pumpkin for just this reason and you might be doing the same after making a batch of these for your family! Best served at room temperature, they are deliciously moist and a fantastic side accompaniment to any meal!

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

Nothing says Fall to me like a Pumpkin Spice Latte.  I have learned to make this little creation at home and would encourage you to do the same to save a few dollars this fall. A batch of this simmering away on your stove will bring the scent of the Fall season right into the room. This milky coffee treat tastes just like a little pumpkin pie with a hint of cinnamon spices throughout. Top the latte with a little fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon to round out these beautiful flavors.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

If there is any recipe from my recipe collection that I plan to hand down to my children, this would be the recipe that I hope to share with them. This pumpkin bread is a cinch to pull together, is made from entirely pantry ingredients, and is an elegant gift for the holidays. I hope you love it half as much as I do and can share a loaf with your family this fall!

Spiced Pumpkin Bread


Fresh Pumpkin Puree? Why not!

Did you know that you can make your own pumpkin puree? It is very easy and a great way to get your money back on the pumpkins you bought!

The Tightwad Gazette recommends not cutting into your pumpkin until after October 30th. Save the cut out portions in your fridge and the day after Halloween, you can begin to process it. Simply cut the flesh away from the skin and dice it, just as you would do with squash. Fill a pot with your cubes and add two inches of water to the bottom. Simmer the pot until the pumpkin is soft. Then all you have to do is run it through your food processor and you can freeze this into two cup portions (the equivalent size of the canned stuff).

Just as a side note, when thawed, the puree will be more watery than the canned version. Just allow the water to drain out and use the pumpkin as usual. For more great pumpkin tips, be sure to visit our “Oh, Glorious Pumpkin,” article for more ideas from selecting the most perfect pumpkin ever to what to do with those delicious pumpkin seeds.

What is your favorite pumpkin recipe? Feel free to share those links and ideas here!