Archive for February, 2020

How To Roast Potatoes in the Oven

Friday, February 28th, 2020

How to Roast Potatoes in the Oven

These crispy roast potatoes are as satisfying as any french fries. Learn my easy technique for roasting up baby potatoes for an easy side dish. These extra crispy potatoes are the sheet pan side dish you need in your life.

There are many recipes that end up making our weekly rotation that have never been on the site before. In our family, this is one of those kinds of recipes that is repeated over and over again.

My kids refer to these as,”Mom’s French Fries,” because the texture is so similar. Thankfully, these are a bit healthier than those fried potatoes so I have a lot less guilt serving this to my family.

I thought this one deserved a place on the site after being such a great tried-and-true side dish.

These golden brown potatoes are a perfect pairing with your favorite fish, steak, beef, or chicken weeknight meal.

Did I mention that preparing them on a lined baking sheet makes clean-up a cinch too?

Here are a few of my tips for making these potatoes taste like your favorite fry recipe.

How To Roast Potatoes in the Oven

baby potatoes in a mixing bowl

Use Baby Potatoes to Save Time

Baby potatoes make this an almost effortless dish.

As a big ALDI shopper (check out this ALDI shopping guide with some surprising ways to save), I love the tri-color baby potatoes for this dish.

These mixed bags of potatoes contain a blend of red potatoes, white potatoes, and Peruvian purple potatoes. If you can’t get these though, any small potato should work.

Baby potatoes, despite their name, sometimes are too big and do require being cut in half for roasting.

If you are preparing them cut, place them cut side down on your greased and lined baking sheet.

Positioning them like this allows them to really roast up beautifully.

If your potatoes are smaller, there is no need to cut them.

Get in the Habit of Roasting Root Vegetables at High Temperatures

My biggest takeaway from doing a summer with those Blue Apron meal kits was that 450 degrees is the optimal temperature for vegetables.

Roasting at high temperatures always yields a gorgeous exterior.

Not to mention, NOBODY likes soggy potatoes!

Anyone who has been served mushy steamed potatoes, at a restaurant,  can relate to this disappointment.

Give me potatoes with all the crunch.

Get to Know Your Oven

Have you checked the temperature of your oven with an oven thermometer?

Ovens can be 25-50 degrees off and this temperature difference can quickly burn your dishes if its not gauged correctly. 

Don’t skip this step or be sure to keep an eye on them until you have mastered the temperature for a perfect roast in your stove.

Once you start roasting your veggies at high heat, you will never go back to the old way again.

baby potatoes on a baking sheet

Give Them Space

Crowding your potatoes will not yield the crispy flavor you are after. They often cook unevenly and steam rather than crisp up.

With this in mind, I try to limit each baking pan to no more than 1.5 pounds of potatoes.

For ALDI shoppers, that means one bag of those baby potatoes per pan!

close-up of baby potatoes on cookie sheet

Switch Up Your Seasoning

Personally, I prefer seasoning my baby potatoes with dried thyme, but the possibilities are endless.

Consider adding some spice variety to your potatoes. I love adding sea salt, garlic powder, italian seasoning, smoked paprika, or Old Bay seasoning to change the flavor profile.

Anything in the spice cabinet is game.

spice cabinet

Need to get your cabinet organized? Use my free printable labels to get your spices organized again.

You could also add a gourmet restaurant addition like the fat from another dish.

Bacon fat, duck fat, or a little fat from a roast can add so much flavor to these potatoes.

Salt, Salt, and More Salt

Whenever people ask what my secret is to my cooking, I ALWAYS say that it is salt.

Salt these more than you think you need and then salt them again after roasting.

It makes an enormous difference in flavor and is the secret in all good cooking.

Give Them a Good Jiggle

While these cook, be sure to give the roasting pan a shake once in awhile.

This helps to make sure that they don’t burn or get overly brown in just one spot.

sheet pan potatoes, brussels sprouts, and carrots

Add More Than One Vegetable To Your Sheet Pan

If you are roasting potatoes, you might as well add a couple of other roasted vegetables to your sheet pan.

Personally, I love to add roasted carrots, brussels sprouts, or sweet potatoes.

bowl of roasted potatoes

bowl of roasted baby potatoes

Make These Potatoes (or Leftover Potatoes) for Your Next Brunch

Don’t limit these potatoes to just your dinners.

This is a super simple side to prepare alongside your eggs for a brunch with family or friends.

Although we rarely have any potatoes left, I love to add these cooked potatoes to our lazy Saturday morning breakfast routine.

Simply add a little olive oil to a fry pan and warm the potatoes back up. 

For mornings, I love to add a little Everything But the Bagel Seasoning to my reheated potatoes and eggs.

It is crazy how much that changes the flavors of your dishes.

Surprisingly, if you are pressed for time, they also microwave up deliciously crispy too.

I can’t wait to hear what you think of today’s recipe!

How to Roast Potatoes in the Oven Header

Roasted Baby Potatoes
Recipe Type: Side
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6 servings
These crispy roast potatoes are as satisfying as french fries. Learn my easy technique for roasting up crispy potatoes for an easy side dish. These extra crispy potatoes are the sheet pan side dish you need in your life.
  • 24 ounces baby potatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • Kosher salt & pepper (to taste)
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. If the potatoes are large, cut in half.
  3. Add the potatoes to a large bowl and toss with olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper.
  4. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and coat the foil evenly with cooking spray.
  5. Spread the potatoes out. If cut, place these cut side down.
  6. Cook for 22-25 minutes. Cooking times may vary depending on the size of your potatoes.

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Here are a few of my favorite main dishes to serve with these easy roasted potatoes!

Pressure Cooker Italian Beef Roast from this pressure cooker italian beef roast is our family favorite

Pan Seared Oven Roasted Steak Recipe Header try my foolproof pan seared oven roasted steak

Easy Sausage & Vegetable Frittata from make an easy sausage & vegetable frittata

3-Ingredient Instant Pot Pulled Pork from make this 3-ingredient instant pulled pork recipe

3-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs Recipe from try these 3-ingredient instant pot ribs

Happy Cooking, friends!

How to Roast Potatoes in the Oven Header

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Pan Seared Oven Roasted Steak Recipe

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

Pan Seared Oven Roasted Steak Recipe Header

Tired of paying premium prices for a filet mignon at your local steakhouse? Learn how easy it is to make a steak that tastes just as good at home. Once you master this cast iron skillet method, you can enjoy a weekly steak without the guilt. Try my pan seared oven roasted steak method.

If there is one thing I love, it is creating a restaurant experience in the comfort of my own home with a price tag that fits our budget. 

Today’s post is less recipe and more about a quick and easy way to prepare a sirloin filet (or rib eye steak) at home.

Raw Steak in Skillet

The truth is, if you have a beautiful cut of meat, the last thing you want to do is mask that delicious flavor.

A beautiful steak needs only to be dressed simply with a little oil, salt, pepper, and a butter finish to be more than worthy of your taste buds. This filet mignon recipe is perfect for two and ideal for a small dinner party or date night at home.

I had hoped to have a beautiful picture tutorial for you, but this steak cooks so quickly that I am going to type out my tips instead.

Even with the tomatoes and roasted asparagus as our sides, we still will have dinner ready in about fifteen minutes! 

Pan Seared Oven Roasted Steak Recipe Header

Pan Seared Oven Roasted Steak Recipe

That will be even less time than it would take to haul everyone in the car for a meal out, not to mention the incredible savings you will experience by dining at home in your very own dining room!

Here are my recommendations for that “steak house” experience at home!

Please note, these are directions for cooking a filet mignon.

The same technique can be applied to other cuts

Cooked Filet in Cast Iron Skillet

Pick the Right Type of Pan

Since we are need to sear the steak and then finish it in the oven, you want to make sure that you have a pan that can do this task well.

I love a good heavy-bottom skillet that does not have a plastic handle or a cast iron skillet for this job.

My cast iron skillet has been SO good to me over the years.  

This is definitely a work horse in my kitchen and it is also a great tool to use when outdoor grilling for delicate meats or when mixing up a big batch of fresh veggies so you don’t have to cook in a hot kitchen in the summer.

It has truly been the best $20 I have ever spent and I know that you will feel the same way especially after cooking your steaks on it.

Let Your Meat Rest At Room Temperature

It is really important that you don’t put cold meat into your hot pan. 

I like to pull my steaks out about 30 minutes before I plan to cook them and leave them on my counter.

This helps to heat your steak more evenly and helps prevent the risk of your meat drying out before you have finished cooking it.

Get Your Pan Screaming Hot…Even Hotter Than You Think

If you want a beautiful sear on your meat, you need to be sure that your skillet is hot enough to add that beautiful caramelization on your meat.

Make sure to turn your oven up to high heat and let the skillet warm for five minutes before you begin cooking your meat.

When you place your meat in the pan it should stick and you should hear a nice sizzle on the outside. That’s exactly what you want to hear and see happening to your meat.

Dry & Season Your Meat Well

One of the best tools in your arsenal for creating the perfect steak is a paper towel.

If you want a beautiful sear on your meat, you need the meat to be dry and not wet, otherwise you risk just having your meat steam in its own juices rather than sear.

Dry the meat with a heavy-duty paper towel and then brush the steak with oil.

I love to use canola oil (although you can use olive oil in a pinch) and then season your meat simply with salt and pepper.

Once your pan has to come to that screaming hot phase, drop your seasoned meat into the pan and let it sear for two minutes on each side.

Don’t Move Your Steak

Once you have dropped it in, the first thing I know I want to do is to shift the meat and take a peek at it.

Just don’t.

Let the meat get the golden sear it needs for two minutes on each side, giving it a beautiful crust on the outside, and keeping your meat perfectly pink on the inside.

Butter Makes Everything Better

A butter finish makes all dishes a little more beautiful, don’t you think?

A dab of butter is a beautiful finishing touch to the steak before sliding it into the oven to finish cooking.

Craving a garlic flavor? After you brush your steaks with oil, take a clove of garlic and rub it against the raw steak to add that garlic flavor (without burning Consider making this simple garlic butter compound for your recipes.

Pan Seared Oven Roasted Steak Recipe Finished

Avoid Overcooking

A meat thermometer is your best friend. I still rely on mine for my steaks.

I love my steak to be medium rare, but cook it to the consistency that you love the most.

Keep in mind that Rare is 120 degrees, Medium is 125 degrees, and Medium Well is 130 degrees.

Always Let Your Meat Rest

If you cut into your meat right when you take it off the pan, chances are that all the juiciness will just pour out on your cutting board or plate.

Cover your steak with a little tin foil and let it rest for ten minutes before diving in. 

I promise you will have a much more flavorful bite if you just wait the recommended amount of time.

Another Steak Recipe Option

Prefer to grill steaks? Try this easy steak marinade made with soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, oil, and lemon juice. This is the best steak marinade and perfect for inexpensive cuts like marinated flank steak, strip steak, or a flat iron steak.

Make steak nights quicker by making these freezer mashed potatoes and portion in small portions for reheating in your slow cooker

Pan Seared Oven Roasted Steak Recipe Plated


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Looking for more fun date night meal ideas? Check out these recipes!

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe
Recipe Type: Main Dish
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2 servings
Tired of paying premium prices at your local steakhouse? Learn how easy it is to make a taste that tastes just as good at home. Once you master this cast iron skillet method, you can enjoy a weekly steak without the guilt. Once you master this cast iron skillet method, you can enjoy a weekly steak without the guilt. Try my pan seared oven roasted steak method.
  • 2 (10-ounce) filet mignon (you can double this recipe, just make sure you have a large skillet so all the steaks have room)2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Heat a large, well-seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and brush them lightly with canola oil.
  4. Combine the salt and pepper on a plate and roll the steaks in the mixture, pressing lightly to evenly coat all sides.
  5. When the skillet is ready, add the steaks and sear them evenly on all sides for about 2 minutes per side, for a total of 10 minutes.
  6. Top each steak with a tablespoon of butter and place the skillet in the oven.
  7. Cook the steaks until they reach 120 degrees F for rare or 125 degrees F for medium-rare on an instant-read thermometer. (To test the steaks, insert the thermometer sideways to be sure you’re actually testing the middle of the steak. Mine took 4-5 minutes to come to medium rare)Remove the steaks to a serving platter, cover tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.


The Best Instant Pot Risotto Step By Step this instant pot risotto recipe couldn’t be easier

Pad Thai Recipe make this pad thai recipe at home


5-ingredient salmon sheet pan meal you only need 5 ingredients to make this salmon sheet pan meal

butter chicken recipe skip the indian takeout and make this butter chicken at home

Happy cooking, friends!

Pan Seared Oven Roasted Steak Recipe Header


Grocery Shopping Tips at ALDI

Monday, February 24th, 2020

Grocery Shopping Tips At ALDI Header

Take a behind-the-scenes look at ALDI supermarket. Discover how they make their store brands, learn more about shopping the store, have ALDI groceries delivered, and learn what products I love from this budget-friendly store.

Have you ever wondered how products are made at ALDI and how this grocery chain is able to keep their prices so low?

I have the inside scoop thanks to an exciting grocery store tour I got to do at the store. I also have had the privilege of working with them at blog conferences and to help facilitate their store tours for other customers.

Longtime readers know that I have been an early minister on spreading the ALDI truth.

Amy Allen Clark- The ALDI Queen

In fact, for many years I ran a blog called, The ALDI Queen.

You could say that for many years, I made shopping at ALDI my job and my mission to get families to shop there.

The items, at the time, were difficult to create menu plans around because of their limited product choices.

That isn’t the case now AT ALL.

I do almost 100% of my shopping, at their store.

I remember as a child going to ALDI Supermarket with my mother to get our groceries

If you have been an ALDI shopper, for as many years as I have, you may remember the price sheets that ALDI would print.

It was a black-and-white newspaper ad that would tell you all of the price deals for every single week.

The sheet was alphabetized and you would have to find each of the current prices within their handy flier.

I remember being in charge of holding the sheet and plugging the figures into our calculator.

Ah, the days before the digital fliers and phone calculators.

Am I showing my age?

ALDI Supermarket provided some relief to our family’s grocery budget and it now provides relief to my own family’s tight budget as well.

If you are thinking this store is only worth the trip for the bakery staples, you would be wrong.

Thanks to their ever expanding product lines, ALDI now carries many of the specialty products that you would purchase at your local Whole Foods, as well as loads of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free products.

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.

This grocery store tour allowed us to learn more about how their stores were set up and I even 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.

I’d love to share with you what I’ve learned over the years.

Grocery Shopping Tips At ALDI

Grocery Shopping Tips at ALDI

(this clip explains the history of ALDI from ALDI)

Where did ALDI originate?

Despite the growing amount of ALDI Supermarkets all over the United States , ALDI actually originated in Germany and is known as the German Walmart.

The history of ALDI is as intriguing as their deals that they offer.

The frugal ways of ALDI actually came out of its post World War II beginnings, in 1948, when customers at its first store in Essen Germany wanted only the lowest priced staples.

These stores were started by two brothers, Theo & Karl Albrecht, and they named the store Albrecht Discount.

Albrecht Discount is now known as ALDI (for short).

Grocery Aisles at ALDI Tour

How does ALDI keep 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.

Some of the ways they save is by having baking items on pallets and dairy items on rolling carts so the employees don’t need to stock individual items on shelves.

The savings are also reflected in the smaller things like the quarter deposit for your cart and bagging those groceries yourself.

Honestly, I am able buy double the items for our family just by shopping their store.

Seeing is believing so make a plan to visit your local store soon.

How do I find out if I have a store nearby and what are the store hours?

ALDI is expanding and has been remodeling many of its stores. To find out if you have a store near you, you can locate your local store by searching with your zip code. This will also tell you your store hours so you can plan your shopping trip.

How many employees work in an ALDI store?

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.

Looking for a job with ALDI? Check their current listings here!

What is the difference between ALDI and other grocery stores?

ALDI is a very normal store, although it lacks many of the frills of the traditional supermarkets.

They offers a “strictly no frills” approach to their store which means that they do not decorate their aisles or fill shelves.

Items are placed on pallets, similar to your shopping experience at warehouse clubs, and customers pick items off of the pallets.

Upon a pallet being emptied, the employees bring out another pallet to be bought from, eliminating the need for someone to sort shelves.

Keep in mind, you will not be receiving any free bags (scroll down for more information on that and purchasing a cart), or a personal greeter, stores.

Most ALDI’s do not offer a deli, a butcher shop, a bakery.

In fact, it is hard to find even a listed phone number.

You see, if they had a phone number, then they would have to have someone answer the phone.

That one extra “frill” would cost ALDI time & money and this is how they keep their costs low.

What is the ALDI AOS and what will I find there?

While ALDI does keep to many grocery basics, the trap is found in the middle section of their store.

This is the, special purchases or ALDI Finds aisle that bring in superior discounts on random household items each week.

These can include kitchen gadgets, electric appliances, furniture, patio items, toys, exercise equipment, home decor, and even computers.

If you see chats that talk about the AOS, you may be wondering what is going on.



Basically, it is the middle spot in the store that you might get sucked into.

I have often come home with random things like fabric steam cleaners, an exercise weight set, a foldable buffet table, or even clothing items.

It’s the Wild West of aisle and always yields incredible surprises.

It is a bit like shopping a Big Lots or TJ Maxx and is referred to, by enthusiasts as, the AOS.

What does ALDI mean when they say you will, “shop different,” at their stores?

In the ALDI mission statement, you will discover these promises that share why they consider their grocery store to be such a unique experience.

  • Twice as Nice Guarantee- If you are unhappy with an item, not only will they refund your money, but they will also give you a replacement item for free. Read about their refund policy here. This guarantee does not mean a guarantee on being the lowest priced though. They always do their best to be the lowest price, but there may be times (in the seasonal and special purchases aisles especially) where you might be able to get the item for less at another store or with a coupon.
  • They Meet or Exceed Competitor Brands- They aim to make a product that is better than their competitors and many products are award-winning because of it. In 2019, they taste-tested over 30,000 products just to make sure that you have the best tasting product on the shelf. Read more about their good quality food and policies.
  • They Say NO to Synthetic- Every ALDI exclusive is completely free of certified synthetic color, added MSG and partially hydrogenated oils. You can read more about this commitment here.
  • They Carry Organic Products- ALDI has daily delivery of produce, fresh meats and fish, and carry an extensive line of organics, gluten-free and vegan foods.
  • They Have Many Award-Winning Wines- Forget that two buck chuck business and acquaint yourself with the ALDI aisle. The wines are incredibly affordable and you can find new offers every week. They also do a few monthly wine features that they don’t typically cary.
  • They Have the Best Prices. Seriously.– Check out this comparison on the pricing at ALDI, Kroger, & Walmart.

Who Has a Lower Price- ALDI or Trader Joe’s?

I loved the results of this price comparison on ALDI vs Trader Joe’s.

As you can see, ALDI offers pricing even lower than most Trader Joe’s products.

What is the Best Day to Shop?

Wednesday is the the BEST day to shop ALDI.

This is the day when the ALDI Finds get freshened up and you can find, typically, between 40-50 new items at the store. 

See you in the AOS! 

What do I need to know for my first trip to ALDI?

Download the ALDI App For Your Visit

If you are trying to locate the current price sheet and weekly flier, downloading the app is highly recommended.

Not only will this tell you the current store price, it also has a place for you to jot down your shopping list and the ability to search the QR codes on any product.

Don’t Bring Your Coupons

No coupon clipping is needed for your ALDI shopping experience.

ALDI sells, primarily, only store brand merchandise saving you some time on coupon cutting.

Typically, they only carry one or two brands for each product you are hunting for. Just because these products are considered “off-brand”, in actuality, many of the private label products are made by well-known brand manufacturers and are simply shipped in different packaging to their stores.

Bring the Right Type of Payment With You

Currently the store accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, most debit cards, the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), Link cards, SNAP and contactless pay such as Apple Pay And Google Pay.

At this time they do not accept checks or the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC)

buy a quarter keeper for ALDI buy this quarter keeper so you won’t forget OR shop all the fun quarter keepers

Bring a Quarter for Your Cart

The store offers a shopping cart rental program which can be confusing the first time you shop the store. I highly recommend purchasing one of these quarter holders for your keychain so you don’t forget.

The carts are linked together, you slide the quarter in (the quarter spot is located near the handle on the right), and this releases your cart.

Once you are done with your cart, simply bring it back to the linked carts, link it to the cart in front, and take your quarter back.

Quarter for ALDI Carts

This simple solution saves on hiring people to scavenger hunt for carts.

If you forget your quarter, go to the cashier and have them make change for you.

Feeling generous?

Leave the cart unhooked to save someone a quarter.

Collapsible Reusable Bags for ALDI buy these collapsible reusable bags or find your favorite reusable grocery bags here

Bring Your Own Grocery Bags (Or Pay a Small Fee for Theirs)

It is green to bring a reusable bag (another cost-cutting method by the store) and you can bring your favorite set (I HIGHLY recommend these) or you can purchase reusable bags from the store.

If you don’t need another reusable bag, you can purchase plastic or paper bags for a small fee.

Also keep your eyes out for empty boxes because these are perfect for storing groceries in your car and make carrying your groceries easier.

Be Ready for the Cashiers, and I MEAN READY!

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.

As a customer, you load your items on the conveyor belt and then bring your cart to set up next to the cashier. The cashier will scan the items and place them in the cart for you.

Once you are done, you relocate to bag your groceries.

If you want a hilarious example of the speed, you will love this. Follow me on Instagram for more fun every dang week.

Get Bagging

Instead of having someone bag for you, you will be the bagger! I find it helpful to organize my bags by categories.

I keep a bag for freezer foods, meat, canned items (break these up so they aren’t heavy), fresh produce, soft items (like bread and eggs) dairy, and pantry items (like peanut butter, jelly, sugar, flour, macaroni, rice, pasta, etc..)

Grocery Cart for Chronic Illness this is what I use when I do any curbside pickup- highly recommend if you have a chronic illness too to save trips!

Need Someone to Help You Bag? Introducing ALDI Delivery!

ALDI now offers curbside pickup and grocery delivery. Our store is not participating just yet, but this service is offered by Instacart.

For 2020, you can use coupon code SHOPALDI20, for new Instacart members, which should give you free pick-up on your first three orders.

We use the grocery delivery service, at our house, and it has been a Godsend for our family.

As someone who has health problems and chronic joint pain issues, this has been so helpful for our family.

ALDI offers this through the Instacart platform.

To be an Instacart member, you pay $99 for the year and this pays for unlimited visits (similar to being an Amazon Prime member).

Keep in mind, you may notice an additional mark-up on the pricing (it isn’t significant, but worth nothing) and there are additional fees that apply to online orders.

I think of this pricing system as the purchase is made including a bit of a buffer for paying the employees to shop for me.

For example, tipping your shopper will be an additional expense.

Grocery Shopping Tips At ALDI visit my passive income for busy moms series for new ways to save BIG for your family!

Get Cash Back on Your Purchases

Although ALDI doesn’t take coupons, be sure to scan in your receipts into Ibotta for potential cash back rewards!

Looking for more ways to save big? Be sure to follow my passive income series now.

What I Learned From My Behind the Scenes ALDI Trip

For seasoned ALDI shoppers, what I’m sharing might not be new, but maybe this information is?

Blind Taste Test At ALDI

They Are Serious About Beating Their Competitors on Taste

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. 

We sampled many items from their holiday line and compared them to the national brands.

Blind Taste Testing at ALDI Headquarters

ALDI ham review


Blind Taste Testing of Cheese At ALDI

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 their 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.

Belmont Pies Review

Belmont Pies Review

Another surprise was the difference between Mrs. Smith’s apple pie versus the ALDI Belmont Deep Dish Apple Pie. 

The ALDI pie crust (pictured on the right) 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 (FOR SURE) exceeded the standard.

ALDI & Trader Joe’s Are Not Owned By the Same Company

A common misconception is that this store is owned by the same parent company.

The relationship though is…confusing.

ALDI Nord owns Trader Joe’s in the States, but the ALDI stores that you see in the States are run by ALDI Süd, which is separate from Trader Joe’s.

To quote The Kitchn, “The chains are kind of like estranged cousins. Step-brothers? In-laws? We don’t know! But it doesn’t matter because the stores are run entirely independently with no joint ownership.”

They Have a Tracking System to Pull Products Quickly

ALDI does their best to work with local farmers to get fresh produce on their shelves.

The transparency on this will be on the pricing label and say that it is, “locally grown.”

Each of their produce items are tracked so that they are able to pull specific numbers off of the shelves if there are any food safety issues with the products.

This means any time a purchase is made, you know it is held to food safety standards AND you are also backed by their twice back guarantee.

Barcodes of ALDI products

Multiple Barcodes on ALDI products

Barcodes on ALDI products

multiple barcodes on ALDI products

There Are Multiple Barcodes On Every Product

This is one of those things that I would have never noticed and now I can’t believe I didn’t see this before.

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.

I hope you enjoyed these fun ALDI facts! 

Scroll down for some of my FAVORITE recipes made from ALDI ingredients!!

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Affiliate links help support our site. Thank you for supporting a small business owner!

Looking for ways to prepare dishes with ALDI ingredients? Here are my favorite recipes for you!

3 Ways to Cook Chicken Breasts From Frozen Header learn how I prep ALDI’s frozen chicken for a busy week

DIY Cold Brew Coffee from ALDI Ground Coffee learn how to make cold brew coffee from ALDI ground coffee or beans

10 Minute Fish Tacos Recipe header make these 10-minute tacos with ALDI frozen (or fresh) tilapia

Shrimp Boil from ALDI Shrimp put ALDI frozen shrimp & smoked sausage to work in this easy shrimp boil

3-Ingredient Instant Pot Ribs Recipe from make these 3-ingredient ribs with ALDI ribs & Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce

5-ingredient salmon sheet pan meal from get my 5-ingredient salmon sheet pan meal make with ALDI ingredients

How to Cook Quinoa in the Rice Cooker from I even bought a rice cooker from ALDI and prepare their quinoa with this easy method

Pumpkin Chili Recipe from grab pumpkin in the baking aisle and warm up with my ALDI pumpkin chili recipe

Pressure Cooker Italian Beef Roast from have a pressure cooker? this italian beef roast is how I prepare an ALDI chuck roast. It’s to die for!

once you try this ALDI ground beef taco filling, you’ll never prepare it any other way again!

Shrimp Fried Rice Recipe from leftover rice from ALDI can be made into this EASY fried rice with a few items from their freezer section

gluten-free meatloaf recipe the binding agent in this gluten-free meatloaf is potato flakes from ALDI.  say what?

chicken pesto frittata ALDI’s prepared pesto and diced chicken make the perfect filling for a hearty frittata

sheet pan ranch pork chops this sheet pan pork chop meal is all made from ALDI ingredients and a weeknight winner

lemon paprika chicken thighs once you try this method for cooking ALDI chicken thighs, you’ll rely on it again and again

Overnight Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal from learn how I turn my slow cooker into a double boiler to make creamy overnight apple oatmeal with ALDI steel cut oats

Meal Prep: Breakfast Sandwiches Recipe from make your own mcmuffins with this freezer-friendly ALDI recipe



Do you love ALDI as much as me? I’d love to hear what you think of this discount grocer!

Gluten-Free Pad Thai With Shrimp

Friday, February 21st, 2020

Pad Thai Recipe Header

Did you know you can make this takeout favorite at home? Try my gluten-free pad thai recipe for an easy weeknight dinner at home that your whole family will love!

When I went gluten-free I never realized how exciting it would be to recreate some of my favorite gluten-filled dishes at home.

Today I am sharing a Gluten-Free Pad Thai with Shrimp recipe that you can create in your own kitchen. The best part is that your guests will never guess that this delicious dish is gluten-free!

Have you ever had Pad Thai? It is one of my favorite dishes to order at thai restaurants.

If you haven’t, you are in for a delicious treat. Pad Thai, according to Wikipedia, is a stir-fried rice noodle dish commonly served as a street food and at casual local eateries in Thailand.

It is made with soaked dried rice noodles which are stir-fried with eggs and chopped firm tofu, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic or shallots, red chili pepper and palm sugar. It is then served up with with lime wedges and often chopped roasted peanuts.

Pad Thai With Sriracha and Peanuts


Pad Thai Recipe (Gluten Free)

If you have made fried rice at home, you will understand the concept of adding veggies and then scrambling eggs to your dish.

If you lack the coordination to scramble the eggs on one side of the pan and keeping your cooked veggies on the other, you can simply remove the veggies and scramble them separately.

While I love the delicateness of the rice noodle, I prefer a more linguine-style noodle in this dish to balance the lightness of the shrimp and because these hold up well to a lot of reheating.

I rely on Tinkyada noodles to create this dish because their texture happens to be my favorite in the gluten-free pasta world. You are looking for the Fettucini Style Pad Thai Noodles at your grocery store.

Here are a few commonly asked questions about this dish!

Pad Thai

Are soy sauce and fish sauce gluten-free?

Be sure that you are using a gluten-free soy sauce and fish sauce.

Personally, I rely upon the La Choy Lite Soy Sauce as my soy sauce substitute, but there are reports that some people have a reaction to this. I have not, but be sure to do your own research on what product will fit your gluten-free needs best.

If I don’t want to make the sauce, do they sell prepared pad thai sauce?

You can definitely purchase a prepared sauce, but be sure to read the label if you need a gluten-free pad thai sauce.

I don’t like shrimp, what other options can I put in my pad thai?

You definitely don’t need to put shrimp in your pad thai.

This is one of those recipes that you can customize with what’s leftover in your fridge (proteins or veggies) and what sounds good to you.

Feel free to switch it with chicken, tofu, bell peppers, carrots, extra garlic, chives, or anything else that you need to use up or are craving.

I prefer a peanut sauce. Do you have any recommendations?

The addition of peanut butter always makes everything better, doesn’t it? Check out this sauce for another fun option.

I love these peanut ginger chicken noodles for a different spin on an asian noodle recipe.

The best part about that recipe is that they are delicious hot, cold, or room temperature.

Pad Thai

What are some fun toppings for pad thai?

The fun part about sharing this with your family and friends is that you can also create a variety of toppings so everyone can personalize their dish. I love roasted chopped peanuts, sriracha, fresh limes, and cilantro on mine.

I hope you love this dish as much as we did and can enjoy this during the Lent season…or any season, really! We polished this dish off in no time at all and I can’t wait to make it again. Thanks to these sturdy noodles, the dish reheats beautifully and can be eaten for your lunches or a late night snack!

Gluten-Free Pad Thai With Shrimp
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Thai
Author: Amy Clark
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Did you know you can make this takeout favorite at home? Try my gluten-free pad thai recipe for an easy weeknight dinner at home that your whole family will love!
  • 1 package (14 ounces) Tinkyada Brown Rice Pad Thai Noodles⅓ cup fresh lime juice
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons gluten-free fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces mushrooms
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 12 oz frozen peeled deveined medium shrimp, thawed (raw not cooked)
  • Sriracha Sauce (to taste)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
  • ¼ cup firmly packed cilantro leaves
  • Lime wedges and chopped green onions for garnish (optional)
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  2. Cook the noodles, in boiling water, as directed on package.
  3. After they are done cooking, drain and rinse with cool water; set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, in small bowl, stir lime juice, ⅓ cup water, the brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of the oil until well mixed; set aside.
  5. In nonstick wok or 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium high heat. Cook shrimp for approximately three minutes and remove from pan; set aside.
  6. Next cook mushrooms and then set aside.
  7. Using the same oil, cook garlic for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until starting to brown. Add eggs. Cook about 2 minutes, stirring gently and constantly, until scrambled but still moist.
  8. Stir in noodles and lime juice mixture. Increase heat to high. Cook about 1 minute, tossing constantly with 2 wooden spoons, until sauce begins to thicken.
  9. Add remaining ingredients except cilantro. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, tossing with 2 wooden spoons, until noodles are tender.
  10. Place on serving platter. Sprinkle with cilantro and garnish with additional chopped dry-roasted peanuts, and lime wedges.
 Recipe Adapted from Betty Crocker 

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Love this recipe? Check out our other favorite meat-free and seafood dinner ideas!

Shrimp Scampi Recipe Header gluten-free shrimp scampi

Shrimp Fried Rice Recipe from shrimp fried rice

10 Minute Fish Tacos Recipe Header

10 minute fish tacos

Happy cooking!

gluten-free pad thai recipe


10 Minute Fish Tacos

Friday, February 21st, 2020

10 Minute Fish Tacos Recipe header

This quick fish taco recipe is the perfect recipe to get dinner on the table in under 15 minutes. Customize these baked fish tacos with my list of fun toppings. This is a quick and easy dinner that your whole family will love.

Looking for a recipe that you can prepare in ten minutes ? Today I’m sharing one of my tried-and-true weeknight dishes that has become a regular part of our menu rotation.

Are you a big fan of fish tacos?

After having some delicious fish tacos, in California, I wanted to enjoy this fish taco treat at home.

These tacos can be created from any white fish, depending on your family’s preference.

Personally, we are a big fans of tilapia that can be found over in the frozen foods aisle.

Not only is tilapia a mild white fish, it also comes with an affordable price tag.

You can also find some additional white fish ideas in the frequently asked questions below.

This weeknight meal is one that I regularly rely on for a meat-free taco night that our whole family loves.

10 Minute Fish Tacos Recipe

10 Minute Fish Tacos Recipe

To prepare the fish quickly and easily, dice up the fish and put it in a medium bowl.

Toss the fish with your favorite spice blend with olive oil.

Spread the fish on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and then cook it at the suggested temperature for 4-6 minutes.

While the fish is cooking, you can prepare a variety of fun toppings.

10 Minute Fish Tacos Topping Ideas

Fun Taco Toppings To Try

Traditional toppings for tacos are fun, but sometimes the taco night needs a little switch up. Try these topping suggestions to make taco nights more fun!

  • Salsa- Add a combination of black beans, tomato, corn, chopped jalapeno chile peppers, and cilantro.
  • Traditional- Toss shredded cabbage with a little olive oil and lime juice.
  • Asian-  Add broccoli slaw, toasted sliced almonds, and bottled Asian vinaigrette.
  • Fruity- Add fresh fruit salsa made with kiwi, red onion, strawberries, and mango.
  • BLT- Add shredded lettuce, bacon, tomato, and mayo.
  • Caprese- Add basil, cubed tomato, cubed mozzarella cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Other Fun Toppings- Add Greek yogurt, jarred salsa, guacamole, limes, hot sauce, freshly cracked black pepper, cheese, thinly sliced radishes, fresh cilantro, and shredded lettuce to your taco condiment bar.
  • Fish Taco Sauce Recipe- Looking for a sauce to add to your tacos? Mix together a 1/2 cup sour cream 1/3 cup Mayo, juice from one lime, and a teaspoon of garlic powder. To spice it up, add a little Sriracha sauce or a generous shake of Old Bay seasoning in your sauce.

Here a few other commonly asked questions about this recipe!

10 Minute Fish Tacos With Lettuce

10 Minute Fish Tacos With Lettuce and Tomatoes

If my family doesn’t like tilapia, what are some other mild white fish options for my tacos?

Flounder, hake and tilapia are all white fish with mild taste.

Looking for other options? Snapper, mahi mahi, grouper, flounder, halibut, or cod are also excellent inexpensive options.

If you want to skip the white fish altogether, salmon can also be a great option. I recommend this easy method for broiling salmon for tacos.

I don’t want to bake my fish. Can you tell me how to prepare fish tacos on the stove top?

You can prepare fish tacos in a skillet, if this works better for your family. Spice up your fish, just as you would for the baked version. Make sure that you pat your fish, with a paper towel, before cooking so that it gets a nice crust. Over medium high heat, cook for 4-5 minutes on each side.

Homemade Tilapia Nuggets for Fish Tacos on Sheet Pan

Can I substitute with frozen fish sticks for my tacos?

Baking the fish, as prepared in this recipe, is healthier and takes a lot less time than preparing fish sticks.

If you prefer to use these, preheat your oven to 475ºF.

Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange the fish sticks on baking sheet.

Sprinkle with the seasonings recommended below and bake for 11-13 minutes.

You can also make your own fish nuggets for taco stuffing. This is our family’s favorite panko crusted tilapia nuggets recipe.

How do I remove the fish odor from my home after baking?

Simmer a small pot of water with a few cut lemons to cut the smell.

I’m also a huge fan of this citrus oil for my diffuser

I use it for kitchen scents AND diffuse it in my office in the mornings to wake me up!

Roasted Corn Salsa

What sides are good with fish tacos?

Personally, we are fans of tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole.

Looking for a fresh spin for dipping?

Try my roasted corn salsa as a chip dip or as a topping for your fish tacos.

If you are looking for other fish taco sides, check out this list of 20 quick and easy sides for fish tacos.


10 Minute Fish Tacos
Recipe Type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
This quick fish taco recipe is the perfect recipe to get dinner on the table in under 15 minutes. Customize these baked fish tacos with my list of fun toppings. This is a quick and easy dinner that your whole family will love.
  • 1- 16 ounce bag of frozen tilapia (or your favorite white fish), thawed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (found over by the seafood counter)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1½ cups shredded lettuce, shredded cabbage, tomatoes, lime, or salsa (optional)
  • Taco shell, flour tortillas, or corn tortillas (warmed)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Rinse fish, pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Cut fish crosswise into ¾ inch slices and place them in a mixing bowl.
  4. Combine the fish with the olive oil and seasonings, tossing gently. Make sure the fish is throughly coated with the spices and oil.
  5. Dump the prepared fish on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, adjusting the pieces of fish so that none are overlapping. 6. Bake for 4-6 minutes or until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork.
  6. To serve, spoon lettuce and tomato into each taco shell, add fish slices, and top with salsa or your favorite toppings.

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Love this recipe? Check out our other favorite meat-free and seafood dinner ideas!

Shrimp Scampi Recipe Header shrimp scampi recipe (can be made gluten-free)

5-ingredient salmon sheet pan meal 5-ingredient salmon sheet pan meal

Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers from mexican quinoa stuffed bell peppers (dairy-free and gluten-free)

Herb Baked Tilapia Sheet Pan Meal from herb baked tilapia sheet pan meal

Happy cooking!

10 Minute Fish Tacos Recipe Header

How to Cook Corn on the Cob

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

The Best Way to Cook Corn on the Cob Header

Corn doesn’t even need to be in season, to taste good, thanks to this surprising kitchen hack. This favorite side dish recipe gets a little added sweetness with milk, butter, and brown sugar. Try my tried-and-true method for boiling corn.

You know you grew up in the Midwest if corn was a favorite family side dish.

Not only has it always been a favorite side, it also is easy to prepare for a crowd.

If you are on the hunt for some new ways to cook corn, you will want to check out my corn on the cob on the grill recipe that allows you to cook your corn right in the husk, saving you loads of time and tin foil.

Have you been curious about boiling corn on the stove top though? This method is traditionally done with boiling salted water in a large pot.

Butttt, I’d love to switch it up today and share my idea to help out-of-season corn taste like a summer day!

How to Cook Corn on the Cob

Just as I love to infuse delicious flavors in my shrimp boil, this same method can be applied to corn that isn’t in season.

I will also openly admit that I don’t always buy the best quality corn that I could buy, relying on whatever is on sale at my grocer.

Maybe that is why I am more open to splurging on these additional ingredients to achieve a better tasting vegetable.

I discovered, many years ago, that adding milk, butter, and brown sugar add so much flavor to the traditional hot water bath.

Since you are adding butter to the water, you can skip the buttering at the end. This milky buttered combination coats the corn cobs and gives you all the buttery flavor without the messy butter drips.

Love the taste of fresh sweet corn?

The addition of milk and sugar adds the sweet taste to the corn that is sweet, but not too sweet. This recipe is MADE for those spring days when you are craving this staple side dish.

I can’t recommend this recipe enough and hope you can give it a try this summer.

Here are a few commonly asked questions about preparing corn!

When is corn in season?

Are you buying corn for this recipe?

You might be wondering when corn is in season.

Even though this method makes the most of out-of-season corn, peak corn season lasts from May until September.

Corn is grown in all 50 states (even though I have some Hoosier pride about Indiana corn) so you can find corn just about anywhere!

That means, this method might not be necessary for in-season corn, but I do love it for the later Fall & Spring months.

How to Shuck Corn Quickly Header

What Is the Easiest Way to Shuck Corn?

I am a big fan of the recipe tips and tricks that America’s Test Kitchen provides. They call this shucking method their, “nuke and shake.”

They recommend cutting off the stalk end of your cob, about 1″ above the last row of kernels.

Then place these in your microwave and cook them for 2-4 minutes.

Remove the corn from the microwave and prepare it for this recipe.

The microwave creates enough steam to loosen the silk and husk so when you pick it up, you can just shake your corn out from the husk.

The best part is that the silk will just fall out with it.

No need to buy any gadgets, thanks to this smart kitchen hack.

You can see a demonstration of their corn shucking method here.

How Long Does it Take to Boil Corn?

I’ve read tutorials that say anywhere between 15 minutes to 30 minutes (roughly the same length of time as it would be to bring water to a boil)

Personally, I like a bit of a bite to my corn so I prefer to boil corn for 7-8 minutes instead.

I Don’t Have Time to Boil Corn. How Long Do I Microwave Corn On the Cob Instead?

As a busy mom, I get it!

Place the prepared corn on a plate and cover it with a damp paper towel. The paper towel will help develop the steam needed for your corn to cook.

Microwave corn for 5 minutes.

Can You Over Boil Corn?

Um, yes.

Have you ever eaten cafeteria food corn or ate at a buffet where the corn has been on display just a tad too long?

Overcooked corn is mushy and doesn’t retain its sweet flavor.

Using this recipe though, with recommended cooking times, should yield a deliciously sweet ear of corn with bite.

How Can I Prepare Corn for My Grill?

Lucky for you, grilling corn on the cob is one of my favorite ways to prepare it.

This grilling method is done by soaking the corn, in its husk, and then placing it on the grill.

This tutorial also offers some extra tips and tips if you prefer to clean your corn before placing it on the grill too.

Can You Share Any Corn on the Cob Topping Ideas?

Thanks to the flavor infusion, in your pot of water, this corn doesn’t require a lot from you.

I love this list though of 12 surprising 1-topping ingredients for your corn.

The good news?

It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Shaving Grilled Corn for Salad

What Can I Do With Leftover Corn on the Cob?

It never fails that we have a few ears of corn leftover from a cookout.

Lucky for me, I ended up going to a fancy restaurant that topped their house salads with shaved corn.

It is my new favorite way to dress up any green salad.

Looking for a unique salad combination? This Edamame & Corn Salad is always a cookout winner.

Shaved corn can also be made into a delicious roasted corn salsa, as a fun appetizer to munch on with your leftovers.

Admittedly, shaving corn can be a messy affair, but these tips are genius for keeping the corn mess to a minimum.

Don’t feel like making the effort to shave corn?

Another simple way you can use up those ears of corn are to reserve them for a shrimp boil on another night.

Just add the already cooked corn cobs, at the end of your boiling time, to warm.

Milk Boiled Corn on the Cob
Recipe Type: Side
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8 servings
Corn doesn’t even need to be in season, to taste good, thanks to this surprising kitchen hack. This favorite side dish recipe gets a little added sweetness with milk, butter, and brown sugar. Try my tried-and-true method for boiling corn.
  • 6-8 ears corn, husks and silk removed
  • water
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter (optional and to add to the water)
  1. Begin by removing the husk and removing the silks from the corn.
  2. Fill a large stock pot half full with water (use a large enough pot to hold all the corn).
  3. Add in the milk, sugar, and butter. If you prefer the sweet and salty combination, add salt to the water bath too. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil.
  4. Add the corn and return to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow corn to cook for 7-8 minutes or until just tender, depending on size of corn try not to over cook the corn as it will become tough.
  6. Using long tongs remove the corn and place on a plate or in a bowl, then cover with foil until ready to serve. Serve with butter, salt, and pepper (optional as I think this has the perfect flavor).

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Love this side dish?

Be sure to check out these sides for your next meal too!

Corn on the Cob on the Grill Header learn how to grill corn on the cob

Caprese Pasta Salad caprese pasta salad

Grilled brussels sprouts grilled brussel sprouts

quinoa jar salads

Grilled Tomato Bread With Prosciutto grilled tomato bread with prosciutto 

Happy cooking!

The Best Way to Cook Corn on the Cob Header

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Small-Budget Crushes 02.13.19

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Small Budget Crushes Header

Don’t forget to download the Rakuten app before making any purchases on today’s list. You can find all the current coupons AND get cash back on all your purchases! Learn more about it over here!

click on the pictures to shop today’s picks!

fleece shawl collared jacket fleece shawl collared jacket (marked down to just $12.44!!)

reusable food wrappers reusable food wrappers

Button Collar Pullover Sweater button collar pullover sweater

coatigans coatigan (three classic colors)

novel teas (so cute!)

high waisted skirt high-waisted skirt (available in regular and plus sizes!)

make your mark shirt make your mark t-shirt

Slim Fleece Joggers slim fit joggers (snagging these with my birthday money!)

take along a book print take along a book print

rose gold three tier rolling cart rose gold three tier rolling cart

meal prep containers set meal prep containers set

colorblock sweater colorblock sweater

square neck knit top (two colors) so extra art print so extra art print

republic sweater

shift dress shift dress (so many gorgeous colors too!)

floral ruffled shirt (only $10.44!!!)

relaxed chambray shirt

exfoliating mitt exfoliating mitt for sunless tanning cream

vote t-shirt vote t-shirt

reusable produce bags reusable produce bags

eucalyptus garland eucalyptus garland

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links!

11 Rom Coms for the Perfect Date Night

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

11 Rom Coms for the Perfect Date Night

Whether you are trying to avoid the crowds and freezing weather on Valentine’s Day, or just looking for the perfect low-key romance, here are some favorite romantic comedies for date night.

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

When my husband and I were first married, every trip to the video store (remember those) would end in a fight.

He wanted action; I wanted romance. Movies, I mean (although I suppose you could interpret that another way, accurately).

I’m not sure why I was so dead set on forcing him to watch every single romance or romantic comedy in existence, but I was.

Eventually, I realized this was not the healthiest pattern.

And also, as it turns out, I quite enjoy action movies myself.

Long story short?

We didn’t watch a lot of rom coms together for quite a while.

But recently, we’ve started something new.

After almost two decades of marriage, we’ve learned to compromise.

I’ll pause while you gasp in astonishment.

Seriously, though, over the past few years we’ve fought hard to fight less — and it involves a whole lot of compromise.

Of meeting in the middle.

Of me watching baseball movies and baseball documentaries and baseball games, and him watching people find true love in romantic comedies.

It’s been beautiful. (Except for the baseball games. Even my deep, abiding love of my husband can’t make me actually like baseball games.)

Anyway. All this means we can have legit movie date nights at home! (Yes, yes, I realize we could, in theory, watch an action or a drama at home. But, I don’t know, we just usually don’t.)

I realize this might seem silly to you.

Especially if you’re a movie date night at home pro.

But whether you and your husband snuggle on the couch to watch a movie every weekend or you’re new to this like we are, I’ve got a list of rom coms perfect for your date night at home.

All of these love stories are currently streaming, and each one should be a hit with both of you (no matter what genre each of you likes best)!

Check out my list and let me know what kind of movies you like watching with your husband!

11 Rom Coms for the Perfect Date Night

11 Rom Coms for the Perfect Date Night

11 Rom Coms for the Perfect Date Night

Set It Up

Set It Up – (Netflix)

Who knew Netflix could make their own sweet, funny romantic comedy?

This was the first one that caught a lot of attention and for good reason.

Snappy dialogue, charming leads, fun premise (two overworked corporate assistants set up their bosses and then make their own connection).

This is a good one! Stars Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell. Rated TV-14.

Always Be My Maybe

Always Be My Maybe – (Netflix)

Seriously, I wish Netflix would quit doing all the other things and just make rom coms.

Because this one is great, too!

Childhood friends hook up once, then don’t see each other for years.

They reconnect later when she’s a celebrity chef and he’s still living at home and working with his dad.

Also, the best Keanu cameo we didn’t know we needed.

Stars Ali Wong and Randall Park. Rated PG-13.

Before We Go

Before We Go – (Amazon Prime)

Two pretty people (including Chris Evans) meet in NYC and spend a night together.

No, not like that!

On an adventure!

It’s sweet.

And bittersweet.

Gah! I’ve said too much.

Just watch it.

Stars Alice Eve and Chris Evans. Rated PG-13.

Man Up

Man Up – (Netflix)

A woman takes the place of a man’s blind date.

Hijinks (and romance) ensue.

This one is so funny and surprisingly sweet.

I’m glad I took a chance on it (after assuming it would be bad, based on the poster and the actors).

Which is, coincidentally, similar to the journey these characters go on.

Stars Lake Bell and Simon Pegg. Rated R for language.

What If

What If – (Amazon Prime)

I wasn’t sure I could see Daniel Radcliffe as anyone other than Harry Potter.

As it turns out, I sure can.

This movie asks the notorious question: Can men and women just be friends? (No. Not in the movies, duh.)

Stars Daniel Racliffe and Zoe Kazan. Rated PG-13.

Plus One

Plus One – (Hulu) 

Longtime friends decide to be each other’s dates to a bunch of weddings.

If you think you know how this ends, you’re probably right, but the getting there is interesting and funny and moving.

Stars Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid. Rated R for language and sex. 

(Another movie with a strangely similar plot is The Wedding Year (Amazon Prime). Stars Sarah Hyland and Tyler James Williams. Rated R for language and drug use.)


Hitch – (Netflix)

Why not kick it old school with this classic from 2005?

A dating consultant falls for a reporter who doesn’t know who he really is.

Also, Kevin James dances. It’s all so adorable, really.

Stars Eva Mendes and Will Smith. Rated PG-13.

Date Night

Date Night – (Amazon Prime)

If the grind of middle-age and suburban life is your stage of life, this one will probably resonate with you as much as it does with me.

They just wanted a date night, man!

Comedy, action, and sweet married romance.

Stars Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Rated PG-13.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – (Netflix)

If you and your husband prefer something historical, this is a great one!

Is it as good as the book?

No, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess your husband hasn’t read it.

So just sit back and enjoy it as a completely separate and completely sweet story about a writer who connects with the people of a small island following World War II.

Stars Lily James and Michiel Huisman. Rated TV-14.

Isn't It Romantic

Isn’t It Romantic? – (HBO through Hulu or Prime)

A single woman hits her head and wakes up in a romantic comedy, but it turns out that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

This had the potential to be simply silly, but if you’ve ever questioned how love-able you are, this will be as meaningful to you as it was to me.

Also, you don’t want to miss the musical scenes in this comedy!

Stars Rebel Wilson and Adam Devine. Rated PG-13.

Second Act

Second Act  (SHOWTIME through Hulu or Prime)

A working class woman fakes her way into a high-level executive job and both finds herself and loses herself in the process.

This was surprisingly emotional, and the romance isn’t the main part of the story, but it’s all very sweet (and funny, too).

Plus it stars two of my very favorites: Jennifer Lopez and Milo Ventimiglia. Rated PG-13.

Those are my suggestions. I’d love to hear which movies you love watching on date nights! And for more romantic comedies you might not have seen yet, you can find a longer list on my blog

What’s your favorite rom com for date night?

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Looking for some more fun Date Nights? Check out these ideas:

9 Frugal Date Nights

9 Simple Ideas for Frugal Date Nights

How to Create Date Night Playlist

How to Create and Anniversary or Date Night Playlist

9 Spring Dates for Any Budget

9 Spring Date Ideas for Any Budget

5 Movie Date in 10 Days

What I Learned from 5 Movie Dates in 10 Days

Happy Valentine’s Day!

11 Rom Coms for the Perfect Date Night

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Shrimp Scampi Recipe

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Shrimp Scampi Recipe Header

This shrimp scampi recipe is easy enough for a weeknight meal and fancy enough to share with dinner guests. Swimming in white wine (or broth), this is a perfect dish to pair with a big loaf of crusty bread and a bowl of cooked pasta. This gluten-free main dish is one you will turn to again and again!

Don’t you love replicating dishes from your favorite restaurants to make at home?

Shrimp Scampi is one of those dishes that I absolutely love when I go out for seafood, but I don’t always love the price tag that comes with it.

As I have been researching, for this recipe, I discovered that scampi are actually tiny, lobster-like crustaceans with pale pink shells. You may see them referred to as langoustines.

Italian cooks, who lived in the U.S.,  ended up swapping out the scampi with shrimp.

And that, folks, is how we have the name today.

Just a fun little trivia for your next dinner party!

Today I wanted to share with you an easy gluten-free shrimp scampi that is a delicious dish you could share, during this Lent season, for a Friday night feast that the whole family will love.

Finished Shrimp Scampi Dish With Lemons

The shrimp can be dredged in a gluten-free flour to add a little bit of coating or they can just be quickly sauteed in the delicious wine and butter sauce, tossed with parsley, and finished with fresh ground black pepper.

Personally, I love to put the shrimp scampi on top of some gluten-free pasta and serve it all with a side of roasted veggies.

Thanks to the garlic in the scampi, it coats and adds flavor to your pasta beautifully.

Slice up a few lemons and dress the plates with a sprig of flat-leaf Italian parsley to really make it feel like restaurant dining.

Here are a few commonly asked questions about this recipe.

Shrimp Scampi Recipe

Finished Shrimp Scampi Dish

What Kind of Wine Should I Use For My Shrimp Scampi?

You will want to use a dry white wine for this recipe. Personally, I prefer a pinot grigio, but I’ve been known to cook this in a buttery chardonnay as well.

If you do not typically purchase wine, a liquor store might be your best option for advice on this one.

I would also advise asking if they have small boxes or bottles of wine that they carry, if you are just planning to cook with the wine and don’t want the expense of a whole bottle.

I Don’t Want to Use Wine. Do You Have Any Recommendations for Substituting Wine in Shrimp Scampi?

If you don’t want to use wine in your dish, chicken broth can be used as a substitution. The flavor will be a little different, but you will achieve similar results.

How Do I Prepare Shrimp for This Dish?

Since we live in the Midwest, we rely heavily on frozen shrimp. You want to make sure that the frozen shrimp you purchase are naw shrimp.

For this recipe, we are using jumbo or extra-large shrimp. Purchasing shrimp that are already peeled and deveined can be a huge time saver.

How Do I Devein Shrimp For My Scampi?

This is a wonderful tutorial to help you learn how to devein shrimp.

Shrimp Scampi

Gluten-Free Shrimp Scampi
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Adapted from Williams-Sonoma
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 servings
This shrimp scampi recipe is easy enough for a weeknight meal and fancy enough to share with dinner guests. Swimming in white wine (or broth), this is a perfect dish to pair with a big loaf of crusty bread and a bowl of cooked pasta. This gluten-free main dish is one you will turn to again and again!
  • ½ cup (2½ oz./75 g) all-purpose gluten-free flour (found the gluten-free section of the store), can omit if you prefer to not have a crispy exterior to your shrimp
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1½ lb. (750 g) jumbo or extra-large shrimp, peeled and
  • deveined, tails intact
  • 12 Tbs. (1½ sticks) (6 oz./185 g) unsalted butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) dry white wine
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Lemon wedges for serving
  1. In a shallow bowl, stir together the flour, red pepper flake, ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper.
  2. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the 2 Tbs. olive oil.
  3. Toss half of the shrimp in the flour mixture to coat evenly, shaking off the excess. Add the shrimp to a large skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until opaque throughout, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Repeat with the remaining shrimp, adding more olive oil to the pan as needed.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low. add 2 Tbs. of the butter to the pan and then add garlic, stirring frequently. Cook garlic until it softens and is fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the wine, lemon zest and lemon juice, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to very low.
  6. Whisk in the remaining 10 Tbs. butter, 1 Tbs. at a time, letting each addition soften into a creamy emulsion before adding more. It will become very creamy, like a sauce.
  7. Add the cooked shrimp to the sauce and mix gently to coat well. The shrimp will turn pink as they finish cooking in the garlic butter sauce. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and gluten-free pasta.

Looking for more fish and meat-free meal ideas? Here are a few of our family favorites!

5-ingredient sheet pan salmon meal

Shrimp Boil Recipe Header shrimp boil recipe (just leave out the sausage in this one!)

Shrimp Fried Rice prep shrimp fried rice for a frugal lunch or meal

Herb Baked Tilapia Sheet Pan Meal herb baked tilapia sheet pan meal

Happy cooking, friends!

Shrimp Scampi Recipe Header

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January 2020 Must-Reads

Sunday, February 2nd, 2020

Looking for your next great read? Here are 19 fast page-turners you should add to your book stacks this month! Read my book reviews and also get ideas for similar books to check out if you enjoy something from this list. There is a book for every kind of reader this month!


It’s time for my first book reviews of 2020 and, BOY, do I have quite the stack for you today! 

I did manage to meet my 2019 goal to read 100 books, but I BARELY squeaked them all in. The last two weeks of December found me curled up with a book almost nonstop to reach that goal.

Did that stop me from committing to another 100 for this year?

Of course not.

I’m no quitter! 

If you would like to take a look at my year of reading, you can check them all out over here. You can also see my top 20 books of 2019 which was incredibly hard to narrow down.

This really was such an incredible year of reading and I can’t wait to share another year of reading with you. 

Before I get to my reviews, here are some books that you can be snagging for February! 

Book of the Month Selections Announced!

Book of the Month February 2020

February Book of the Month Selections:

Anna K by Jenny Lee (Young Adult)

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (Contemporary Fiction)

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (Suspense)

The Holdout by Graham Moore (Legal Thriller)

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Contemporary Fiction)

Book of the Month February Coupon Codeuse the code HEART to get your first box for $9.99. 


February Young Adult Book of the Month Selections:

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace (Fantasy)

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed (Romance)

Ink in the Blood by Kim Smejkal (Fantasy)

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson (Thriller)

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow (Sci-Fi)

Young Adult Book of the Month February Coupon Codeuse the code SWOON to get your first box for $9.99. 

By the way, did you know Prime members get a read for free every single month? The Kindle First Reads program is so much fun and a great way to sample a book before it hits the store shelves. Grab your FREE book over here. 


January 2020 Must-Reads

Here are 19 must-read books I tackled in January

Red At the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Red at The Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

This sparse read is beautifully written and I love how Woodson is able to take you on a journey with only 200 pages.

Told from alternating perspectives, Woodson seamlessly builds an intergenerational story that explores race, identity, and the differences between the decades. 

This is the second book I’ve read by this author and I recommend her writing for people who appreciate character development over plot development.  The characters really come alive in these pages and Woodson always amazes me with her words.

If you are looking for a powerful audiobook that doesn’t require a huge time commitment, I recommend this beauty for your virtual stack. 

4 out of 5 Stars

If you like Red at the Bone, you might like these titles:

An American Marriage

My Sister the Serial Killer

Fruit of the Drunken Tree


Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This is one of those books that you just can’t put down. 

Twelve-year-old Edward Adler is the sole survivor in a tragic plane crash. His aunt and uncle take him in and Edward has to figure out who he is without his brother and parents.

Luckily, he finds a wonderful friend, Shay, who is his new neighbor.

When they discover a bag of letters, addressed to him, he realizes that many of these passenger’s families have been writing to him for answers on those final moments.

As Edward battles the mental consequences of this trauma, he begins to find healing through replying to these letters. 

Lucky for him, he has a faithful sidekick (Shay) that helps encourage him through these difficult moments and wants to help Edward find closure and peace again.

Honestly, this coming-of-age story is just beautiful.

Alternating perspectives between the passengers and the crew really help the reader understand how this tragedy happened and what the passengers were feeling and thinking in those final moments.

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like Dear Edward, you might like these titles:

The One-in-a-Million Boy

In Sight of Stars

Tell Me Three Things


Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

(currently available for free on Prime)

I have been a big fan of Taylor Jenkins books ever since I read her very first novel. She writes authentic love stories that have so many beautiful layers and writes with an honesty that is, often, indescribable. 

This short story is told, in its entirety, through letters. 

For me, this is always risky business because I very rarely will connect with a story in a letter format. 

I should not have been worried though because Reid does an incredible job telling the story in this format. 

Not only do you get to read the love letters between the people having the extramarital affair, we also get to read the letters of the two spouses who have uncovered the affair.

The consequences of this happening are believable and gorgeously written.

This short story was, surprisingly, as satisfying as a longer book.

4 out of 5 Stars

If you like Evidence of the Affair, you might like these titles:

Life Drawing

All This Could Be Yours

After I Do

The Pasengers by John Marrs

The Passengers by John Marrs

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

As we begin to really push the boundaries with technology, Marrs continues to dream up incredible science fiction plots that rival the best in those Black Mirrors episodes. 

The idea of a self-driving car is awfully appealing to me, but Marrs terrifies us by creating a world where the self-driving car is in full control of the passenger.

Say what? 

Eight cars have been equipped with camera equipment and they are told that they are driving towards certain death. Televising the ordeal, really drives home the point that people see these situations as completely delightful reality television.

Heck, even the passengers think it is a stunt.

Unfortunately, for them, it really isn’t. 

This science fiction thriller is twisty, fast paced, and the kind of book that you have to finish in a day.

4 out of 5 Stars

If you like The Passengers, you might like these titles:


The Warehouse

The One

The Nickel Boys The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

This novel has been on just about every 2019 best books of the year list. Whitehead’s first book was so inventive and thought provoking that I could not wait to dig into this one.

This novel is based on the true story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and robbed children of their childhood innocence. 

Elwood is sent to, The Nickel Academy,  after he has allegedly stolen a car.  

He is sent to this reform school to help him become more disciplined and to pay for his crimes.

Unfortunately, Elwood quickly realizes that the punishments given don’t fit the crimes and Whitehead takes us along on the brutal journey with him. 

I listened to this one on audiobook and found myself needing to detach from the story because of the disturbing violence inflicted on these boys. 

It may have been a mistaken to rely on an audiobook for this one.

Whitehead’s novel jumps to different timelines and most of the second half left me confused because of the disjointed timeline. 

I will continue to read anything Whitehead writes. He is a powerful storyteller and I can’t wait to see what he teaches me next.

Want to learn more about the school this book was inspired by? Check out this piece.

4 out of 5 Stars

If you like The Nickel Boys, you might like these titles:

The Book of Harlan

Girls Burn Brighter


Nothing More Dangerous

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

“You put enough like-minded idiots in a room, and pretty soon their backward way of thinking starts to take on an air of legitimacy.”

This coming-of-age story is set in the ’70’s and takes on the challenges of race and identity in some really beautiful ways. 

Boady lives in an all white neighborhood with his single mother. When a wealthy black family become their neighbors, they could never imagine what fast friendships they would have. 

A white supremacist group is really unhappy that a black man is in charge of the town’s manufacturing plant though.  This anger fuels and torments the family and anyone who might associate with them.

The entire story is layered within a disappearance of Lida Poe, who was the secretary at the town’s manufacturing plant. According to rumors, she left town along with a hundred thousand dollars of company money. As more about the white supremacist group becomes known, Boady begins to wonder if she really did commit this crime.

Boady begins trying to uncover clues and soon realizes that everything is not as it seems.

I couldn’t put this book down and highly recommend it if you are looking for a mystery to escape with.

This coming-of-age story would be perfect for a book club discussion and is the kind of read that really sticks with you.

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like Nothing More Dangerous, you might like these titles:

Ordinary Grace

Where All Light Tends to Go

Tell the Wolves I’m Home

Florence Adler Swims Forever

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland (available for pre-order)

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Set in Atlantic City, in 1934, this gorgeous book captured my heart from page one. 

Florence has a plan to spend her summer training to swim the English Channel. A gifted swimmer, she is focused and determined to reach her goal.

When the family faces an unexpected tragedy though, they make a decision to protect their daughter (Fannie) from knowing the truth about what had happened.

The secrecy comes from a good place though because Fannie’s in the hospital to help her stay calm and quiet for the risky birth of their child. With numerous complications, the last thing that they want to do is to put Fannie into early labor.

The thing is, this secret is too big to keep, especially for Fannie’s young daughter. 

This book is so beautifully written that I was shocked that this was Beanland’s debut. 

I hung on every word of this story and think it would be amazing for a book club discussion.

My only regret is to tell you that this one won’t hit the shelves until July, but can assure you that this is the perfect historical fiction escape for summer. 

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like Florence Adler Swims Forever, you might like these titles:

The Two-Family House

Saints for All Occasions

Manhattan Beach

The Poison Garden

The Poison Garden by A.J. Banner

Thank you to the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This  brisk thriller manages to weave in a lot of twists in just a couple of hundred pages. 

Elise’s life seems pretty perfect. She has a wonderful marriage, a stunning home, a beautiful garden, and she gets to do a job she loves every day. 

When she comes home early, to surprise her husband, she ends up makes a shocking discovery that she would have never guessed. This discovery ruins her idyllic world and she becomes increasingly paranoid that someone is out to get her. 

To make matters worse, she has been sleep walking and has woken up in some very strange places that lead her to believe that maybe she isn’t completely sane anymore.

I zoomed through this thriller. The reader has to suspend belief, at times, to achieve these twists, but it managed to hold my attention until the last page.

3 out of 5 Stars

If you like The Poison Garden, you might like these titles:

The Woman in the Window

A Stranger in the House

The Other Mrs.

This Won't End Well

This Won’t End Well by Camille Pagan (available for pre-order)

Thank you to the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of quirky characters and this book delivers with some laugh-out-loud moments. 

Annie Mercer has no desire to add any new people to her life. Despite her best efforts on a project, she is dismissed and loses her entire career in chemistry.

Not only that, her fiancé has decided that he needs space from her and heads to Paris to work it all out.

When Harper moves next door, she can’t help but become sucked into her story. Not only that, but a local detective, Mo, is trying to keep Harper safe and has decided to loop Annie in on the case. As the two begin working on Harper’s case, Annie begins to realize how important Mo is in her life.

Honestly, this was an adorable read and a light escape from the heavier reads. This was such a sweet story and had so many funny moments that I found myself reading portions out loud to my husband. Annie is such a fun character.

If you need a fun escape, be sure to pre-order this one! 

4 out of 5 Stars

If you like This Won’t End Well,  you might like these titles:

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

How Not to Die Alone

Recipe for a Perfect Wife

Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

Thank you to the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I am such a sucker for a novel that has a dual narrative and this novel was one I loved and where I fell in love with both of these women’s stories.

When Alice moves to the New York suburbs, she finds a vintage cookbook in her basement, from the previous owner. As she struggles to fill her days in her new town, she begins cooking the dishes that Nellie Murdoch, the 1950’s housewife that had owned the book had cooked. It is within these pages that she begins to learn more and more about Nellie and realizes her life wasn’t as idyllic as it may seem.

When she stumbles on a stack of mysterious unsent letters to her mother, Alice can’t stop thinking about Nellie and begins to uncover more secrets about the difficult life that Nellie led. With the help of her next door neighbor, Alice learns more about Nellie’s true story.

The writing is captivating and I enjoyed each of the narratives equally.

This fast page-turner reminds us of how far we have come, as women, and just how much work we still need to do. 

4 out of 5 Stars

If you like Recipe for a Perfect Wife you might like these titles:

Big Lies in a Small Town

The Perfume Collector

The Masterpiece


Followers by Megan Angelo

Thank you to the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Do you ever open a book and find yourself hooked from the very first page?  That was the case with this one. This futuristic book that was just as satisfying as any episode of Black Mirror

Orla is stuck in a job writing clickbait articles about movie-star hookups and about the latest influencers. 

When Orla meets Floss, someone striving to make it in this weird online world, they hatch a plan to launch them both into the high-profile lives they have always dreamt about.

Thirty-five years later, a woman named Marlow is discovering secrets about her own past. Despite her online popularity (with twelve million loyal followers) she dreams of escaping it all and regaining her own life and privacy. These discoveries, about her past, help give her the courage to run in search of the truth. 

I can’t rave enough about the depth of the plot on this one. As someone who lives a life online (on a very small scale), I found this plot far too relatable. 

This book is thought-provoking, wildly imaginative, and so beautifully imagined. I could not turn the pages fast enough and I have a good feeling you will feel the same way. 

Put this novel on the top of your stack and suggest this for your book clubs too!

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like Followers you might like these titles:


The Passengers

The Grace Year

No Exit

No Exit by Taylor Adams

So many of our book club members have raved about this thriller so I had a good feeling I would love this book. Honestly, it turned out to be the PERFECT winter escape.

Four strangers find themselves stranded at a rest stop when a blizzard hits and forces everyone off the road. 

When Darby pulls over, she discovers that there is a kidnapped child in the back of someone’s van and she immediately suspects one of these strangers as the culprit. 

Determined to save the child, she involves one of the other people there to help her save the child.

What she doesn’t expect is how many people are involved and how intent they will be to stop her from saving the little girl. 

This dark thriller ended up being such a wild ride that had so many smart plot twists that, even this seasoned reader, could have never guessed.

If you are in a reading slump, this one should pull you right out of it! 

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like No Exit you might like these titles:

The Chain

Pretty Girls

Then She Was Gone

The Idea of You

The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

This steamy romance was SO DANG GOOD!

The concept of this one sounded a bit far fetched, but the story ended up being surprisingly thoughtful and meatier than I had expected.

Recently divorced, Solène runs an art gallery and is longing for a closer relationship with her tween daughter.

When she takes her to her favorite boy band’s concert, they attend a meet-and-greet after to meet the band. 

What she could have never expected was catching the eye of one of the boys in the band and their attraction is immediate and intoxicating.

They begin having a secret affair that complicates every element of her life- mortifying and breaking her daughter’s heart, being the source of scrutiny by the paparazzi, and creating complications within her work relationships.

Despite it all, she is head over heels in love with this man and is willing to do anything to keep this relationship.

Basically, it is One Direction fan fiction and an imagined relationship between a middle-aged woman and Harry Styles and I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.

I also have a not-so-secret crush on Harry Styles so that *may* have made this read even better for me.

I tweeted the author to beg for a sequel and it seems, from her past tweets, that this just might be in the works. 

If you need a sexy book escape, read this one immediately! 

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like The Idea of You, you might like these titles:

The Royal We


The Kiss Quotient

Big Lies in a Small Town

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Thank you to the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I will read anything that Diane Chamberlain writes so I was thrilled to be a recipient of her book and these gorgeous chocolates to celebrate her book launch. 

This dual narrative mystery is about a woman, named Morgan, who has been serving time for a drunk driving accident. 

She is surprised when she is offered the opportunity to not finish out her sentence, in exchange for restoring a post office mural for a gallery opening.

Morgan attended art school, but has no knowledge of art restoration. As she muddles her way through the piece, she begins uncovering a mural that has some very disturbing elements within it. 

The artist that made it has quite a story too and the reader discovers just why these elements are added. 

As the reader learns more about this story, Chamberlain expertly weaves these stories together in some really beautiful ways.

She’s quite the master at pulling narratives together, in a way that only a seasoned writer could achieve. 

This was another beautiful read from one of my favorite writers.

4 out of 5 Stars

If you like Big Lies in a Small Town you might like these titles:

Recipe for a Perfect Wife

The Lying Woods

Little Fires Everywhere

The Productivity Project The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey

Each year, I like to start my year out with a book on productivity. 

I am also a sucker for books that devote a year to experimenting with technique and reporting results.

Chris Bailey turned down a lucrative job offer and devoted a year to trying all the productivity hacks and reports on if these techniques were successful or not.

From earlier morning start times, to giving up booze and caffeine,  to list-making, to time management strategies, Chris deep dives into different methods and shares his best takeaways and how they impacted his day-to-day routines.

I listened to this one on audiobook and really wished I had a paper copy so that I could highlight it. The audiobook was enjoyable to listen to, but the meat in this one would be working through these challenges by having a physical copy of the book. 

I, honestly, learned a lot about better list-making techniques, how to free up headspace for better productivity, and always need the reminders for better structure to my day.

If you need a little motivation in 2020, get this book! It is a gem!

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like The Productivity Project you might like these titles:

The Happiness Project

Atomic Habits


Lights All Night Long


Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick

This coming-of-age debut is gorgeous, haunting, and beautifully layered.

Fifteen-year-old Ilya arrives in Louisiana from his native Russia to study as an American exchange student. This should be a happy time for him, but his mind is completely consumed by the fate of his older brother, Vladimir.

Just before Ilya moved, his brother was sent to prison for the murders of three local young women. Although Vladimir was involved with drugs, he knows that his brother could never have murdered these women and he is determined to solve the case. 

With the help of his friend Sadie, he begins the mission of trying to prove his brother’s innocence. What he doesn’t expect though is that he will discover the lengths that Vladimir has gone to to protect him and secure his future in America.

I can’t rave enough about how beautiful this read is. This book is incredibly thought-provoking and the reader can’t help but wish for happiness for these two characters.

If this is Fitzpatrick’s debut, I can’t wait to read more from her. 

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like Lights All Night Long you might like these titles:

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

We Came Here to Forget

A River of Stars

Such a Fun Age

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

I have been anticipating this buzz book for months and couldn’t wait to read it. 

This was, honestly, a disappointing read and left me wondering what I was supposed to get out of this story.

The plot sounded really promising. A rich white family hires a young black nanny to care for their daughter.  After an unexpected emergency happens,  they call the nanny to see if she can take their daughter out while they resolve it.

She takes the little girl to the grocery store and is approached by an employee because they think she has kidnapped the little girl. The incident is filmed, by another shopper, who offers to send it to her so she can take legal action.

The guy who records the incident asks her out and they  begin a relationship.  What she doesn’t know is how this man is linked to the family she works for. 

Instead of, what could be a thought-provoking discussion on race and privilege, each of these characters are written so outrageously that they seem like caricatures and end up being cringe-worthy stereotypes.  It, honestly, bordered on comedic because of how superficial each of them were. The plot started promising, but ended up being as shallow as these characters.

Overall, this one fell really flat, as most buzz books seem to do. I did flip the pages quickly, but the story didn’t yield the lessons I thought I would discover.

2 out of 5 Stars

If you like Such a Fun Age you might like these titles:


The Mothers

A Window Opens

American Predator

American Predator by Maureen Callahan

I have been on a true crime kick with my Netflix-watching so I thought it might be fun to add a couple of true crime books to my stack this month. 

If you are looking for a nonfiction book that reads like fiction, this is one of those unbelievable kinds of stories that you won’t be able to put down.

Israel Keyes is one of the most notorious serial killers of the 21st century, yet few of us even know his name. 

Callahan presents the chilling story of a man who had been killing people for years, but had never even been on anyone’s radar. When he is finally connected to a crime, Keyes admits that he has been living a double life for 14 years. 

On the same day, he could attend his child’s parent teacher conference and have murdered someone.

His ability to compartmentalize, his system for finding people to kill, and his ability to leave no trace behind kept his crimes hidden for years.

I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough in this one and highly recommend it if you are looking for a true crime book for your stack. 

5 out of 5 Stars

If you like American Predator you might like these titles:

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

The Stranger Beside Me

My Friend Anna My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams

This memoir has been on my radar ever since I read the story of Anna Delvey and heard that this would be coming to Netflix as a series (produced by Shonda Rhimes!!)

If you are unfamiliar with this story, Anna claimed to be a rich heiress and was leading a life of luxury that included living in a New York hotel, dining at the top restaurants, jetting off on luxury vacations, and working out with a celebrity trainer several times a week. 

After recruiting a few pals to go on a trip with her, the hotel seems “unable to process,” her credit card. Her best friend offers to put it on her card with Anna promising that she will pay her back.

The problem?

This girl is no heiress and she also has no intentions of paying her back.

The reader gets to follow along on Rachel’s nightmare of being unable to pay her own bills, daily requests pleading with Anna to give her the money back, and the creeping depression that sets in when she realizes that Anna has no intention of paying her back.

Rachel isn’t the only victim though and her case and documentation inevitably help Anna to be charged with a crime.

This is a fast page-turner and Rachel’s vulnerability feels real, raw, and relatable. 

4 out of 5 Stars

If you like My Friend Anna you might like these titles:

American Predator

Three Women

The Stranger Beside Me

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January 2020 Must-Reads

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