Author Archive for Valerie

My new favorite cookie: Oatmeal Coconut Crispies

I was looking for a recipe for some cookies for a cookie swap and turned to an old reliable source: the 1963 “Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book”. It’s the book I grew up with, that me and my sisters learned to cook with, and has fabulous photos of all the cookies. And they are all all kitchen-tested recipes, and not just some random recipe from a blog where key ingredients are left out, or key instructions are missing.

In any case, I was looking for something quick and tasty and this one caught my eye (and not just because I happened to have all the ingredients on hand), but because it uses regular white sugar AND brown sugar (like toll house cookies).

My photo shows the cookies drizzled with salted caramel candy coating, but next time I will leave it off. It’s just not necessary, though it does make them more attractive. Even then they are deceptively plain looking.

The formatted recipe includes the original Betty Crocker instructions. (below that you’ll see my notes)

My new favorite cookie: Oatmeal Coconut Crispies

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 24 minutes

Yield: 7 dozen cookies

My new favorite cookie: Oatmeal Coconut Crispies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shortening (part butter or margarine)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup flaked coconut

Instructions

  • Mix shortening, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until fluffy. Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting. Blend flour, baking soda, and salt thoroughly. Stir into shortening mixture. Blend in rolled oats and coconut. (Dough will be soft.) Shape into 2 rolls, each about 2" in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper; refrigerate several hour or overnight.
  • Heat oven to 400°F. Cut into 1/4" slices. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  • Notes

    If using self-rising flour, omit baking soda and salt.

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    I used 1 block of Crisco BUTTER FLAVORED Shortening and no butter or margarine.

    I do the whole shebang in my Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle. In the fridge and chilling in 5-10 minutes tops.

    Use flaked coconut — regular, not sweetened. I got mine at Whole Foods. You can buy just what you need in bulk that way. It was finely shredded which was perfect.

    I made square-ish ‘rolls’. Just a personal preference. Dough will want to flatten out on the bottom anyway. If you want round, use a paper towel or wrapping paper tube to help it hold it’s shape when chilling. Just slice it open and use it as a wrap.

    I was in a bit of a rush, so I put the rolls into the freezer for an hour and a half and they were perfect for slicing.

    I did not grease the pan because I *always* use parchment paper. I haven’t had a cookie stuck in years.

    Make the dough up ahead of time. Once firm, cut the ‘rolls’ in half and put them in a ziploc bag, then you can have cookies in minutes. Probably fine to keep the dough in the fridge like that for a week. More than that and I’d freeze it.

    Harris Teeter Super-Doubles Results 16 October 2016

    I haven’t done much couponing in a while. So much of what I used to buy nobody eats any more. But, with Super Doubles this weekend and a box full of coupons I decided to give it a go again. I’m pretty happy with what I got. I spent $26.80 (coupons tendered equalled $78.79). I had several items in this trip that I didn’t  use coupons on, a couple weren’t even on sale. Probably the best deal here was saving $4.00 (a $2 coupon doubled) on each box of SeaPak Lighthouse Shrimp — which were a BOGO deal, at $4.49, which means I only paid 49¢ a box. The Community Coffee was also a ‘steal’ at a final price of 99¢ per bag.

    harris-teeter-super-doubles-16oct16

    harris teeter receipt from 16 october 16

    I got my matchups from a site I found via a Facebook group: http://moolasavingmom.com/harris-teeter-super-doubles-1016-1018

    Easter Appetizers – Deviled Egg Tulips

    deviled egg tulips videoWhether for Easter or just for spring, these deviled eggs that look like tulips are sure to be a hit. Everyone loves deviled eggs, and they are particularly inexpensive to make (especially around Easter when eggs are on sale).

    In the following video I show my technique for my spring-time deviled eggs. I developed it before there were internet videos. I’m sure I was inspired by a magazine or TV show, but I’m proud to have figured it out myself.

    To start, you’ll need to hard-cook and peel your eggs. I recommend steaming. I tried it for the first time using these directions for steamed eggs on Fresh Eggs Daily. I don’t think I’ve ever had eggs peel so easily (especially not fresh ones!). I doubt I’ll ever go back to boiling.

    Once you’ve cooked and cooled the eggs, you’ll want to soak them in a mixture of food coloring and water. You don’t need to add other ingredients, the whites will color just fine. You can adjust the amount of food color and the length of time you soak your eggs to get the color you want. (I was out of red food coloring so I used unsweetened Wild Cherry Koolaid mixed with water. Perhaps 1/16 of a tsp to 2 cups of water. The eggs have a hint of the wild cherry, which I’m not fond of, so stick to food coloring if you have it around.)

    Once the eggs are colored, the video will take you the rest of the way…

    Enjoy! And Happy Easter to you and yours!

    My turkey is still frozen? What can I do?

    Have you checked your turkey? Is it still frozen? Don’t fret, there is still time to defrost it and brine it at the same time.

    frozen turkey? no problemMy 16lb frozen turkey was purchased and popped in the fridge last THURSDAY. According to the ‘experts’ one should allow 1 day per every 4 pounds to defrost in the fridge. I’ve been cooking turkeys for 30+ years and they simply don’t defrost that fast in the fridge.

    So, here’s what you do:

    Get a big bucket or even an ice chest. Whatever you use, it must be big enough to keep the turkey submerged. Scrub it out so it’s clean enough to eat off, and then scrub a little more. (ok, so I’m a germaphobe)

    Now, get about 2 cups of plain old table salt and put it in the bucket. Add 2-4 cups of HOT water to dissolve the salt. Now add other seasonings. I personally add 1 tsp black pepper, 1 T sage and 4 or 5 cloves of fresh, crushed garlic. The hot water at this point will help release the flavor of the spices. Mix it up. Now add a gallon or 2 of COLD water. Mix again.

    Take your frozen bird out of the wrapper. If you can get the neck and bag of innerds out do so, it’ll help speed the defrost time. If not, don’t worry about it. You’ll be able to work them out in a few hours.

    Put the bird in the brine and add more cold water until the whole thing is covered. It’s gonna try to float, so you’ll have to weight it down. I use a 5 gallon bucket and stack a soup bowl followed by a couple of dinner plates and usually a gallon of water or other heavy item on top.

    Now you want to put this somewhere cool. The frozen turkey is actually going to lower the temperature of the water, but we don’t want this sucker warming up. It needs to stay cold to prevent the growth of nasty bacteria. Fortunately it’s only 40° here where I am, so I can pop my covered bucket onto my porch or put it in my garage. If it’s warm where you are and you can’t fit the bucket with the bird in a fridge you’re probably going to have to add ice periodically (after draining some of the brine) to keep the temperature down. If you’re concerned you can periodically test the temperature with a thermometer, it needs to stay below 70 — and that’s a MAXIMUM, I personally shoot for somewhere in the 40s or 50s.

    For safety’s sake keep it cold!

    Since my bird is still almost frozen solid (even after 5 days!!!) I’m going to be checking it every few hours and my first goal is to get the neck and the bag of innerds out. We need to get more water into the bird to defrost from the inside out as well. When the joints are defrosted I’ll loosen them up from the side of the bird. The more water flowing around it the better.

    Did I mention you need to keep it cold?

    I’ve been defrosting my turkeys this way for a long time. Defrosting this way takes about an hour per pound. I just put my bird in the brine at 3:30. It’s 16 pounds, so it’ll be perfectly defrosted in time to pop it in the oven tomorrow morning.

    Cutting a pineapple the easy way

    How to cut a pineapple

    I’m a gadget addict, I fully admit it. I rarely buy my gadgets new, though. Hubby and I find them at garage sales. Sometimes they are keepers, sometimes not. The below demo of a pineapple cutter, shows one of my favorites and shows how to cut a pineapple. I needed to make the video to show my friend Roni how to use it, since we got the new one (with 2 different sized cutters) and plan to give her the old one.

    Pineapple Cutters on Amazon

    Great Summer Celebrations Without Breaking the Bank

    With Independence Day just a few weeks away, many people are making plans to celebrate. The trick is being able to have a great time, and not stress out over the costs.

    My favorite way to celebrate is with a party. Even if it’s just with one other family.

    4th of july celebration on a budgetRegardless of the number of guests, the easiest way to cut the cost is to make it a potluck.

    Generally, even with a potluck, the hosts are expected to provide the entree, condiments, decorations, tableware, and at least some of the beverages. So, let’s tackle these in order:

    Entrée
    In the land of the free and the home of the brave, 4th of July just *demands* a BBQ. That doesn’t mean you have to go broke buying steaks.

    BBQ pork is a fabulous big party dish because you can cook for a lot of people all at once. Pork prices have dropped again this year, so if you plan ahead you might be able to find a pork shoulder roast (also called a Boston Butt) for as little as 88¢ a pound. (Last year the price never dropped below $1.29.) Pork roasts should be slow cooked at a low temperature. If you don’t have the time or skill to watch the grill, you could take a shortcut and do it either in the oven or even a crockpot. The secret is to cook it just until a fork stabbed in it turns easily. Overcook it and it’ll be dry.

    Another great, inexpensive food for BBQ is chicken. On the grill, the best things to cook are cut pieces and NOT boneless, skinless breasts. Chicken legs and MADE for picnic style eating. If you’ve got 10 minutes you can cut up a whole chicken yourself and save even more money. (if you don’t know how, a quick trip to YouTube is in order!) For added moisture, brine the chicken for up to a day before cooking.

    Hot dogs. If there will be kids at this shindig, hotdogs are a must have. My family and I did a taste test with all the brands in the store one year and Gwaltny dogs won hands-down in our household (even against Oscar Meyer and Ballpark). At about a buck for a pound during BBQ season, they make for cheap eats. Get the grocery store brand buns and you’re all set.

    Condiments
    Before heading off to the store, check your pantry and make sure you don’t already have plenty of condiments. Obviously what you choose for an entree is going to determine what you need. For BBQ pork you should probably serve it with a choice of sweet, Texas-style (tomato based) sauce as well as a southern style, vinegar-based sauce.

    Decorations
    Head to your closest dollar store and grab a few red, white and blue table clothes. Hang out your American flag. If you are trying to be really festive, make some fake jumbo firecrackers out of toilet tissue and paper towel tubes and construction paper.

    It’s easier to round out a menu with many guests, but if it’s just one other family you can probably skip most of the decorations, can certainly use your regular tableware, etc.

    Tableware
    If you’re really trying to save money, skip the paper plates and plastic forks and just use what you’ve got in your kitchen. If not, the dollar store is your friend here again, with an assortment of paper plates, napkins and plastic cutlery in various colors.

    Beverages
    If you have separate freezer, start making ice a week before your party. That way you can avoid having to buy it. Instead of serving up expensive cans of soda, consider serving fruit punch (Kool-Aid for 20¢ with some orange juice and lemon-lime soda added) and iced tea, along with plenty of cold water. Let the guests bring the beer and wine.

    Party Entertainment
    If you’re having multiple families, especially with kids, some traditional picnic activities are in order. Bring back the sack races, water balloon toss, and games like croquet and horseshoes. Sew up the sacks with some old sheets, or other inexpensive fabric (ask around somebody is bound to have something you can recycle). Ask your guests if they have any of these old fashioned games tucked away in their garage or attic.

    Music adds a subtle ambiance to a party. If you or one of your guests have an iPod or other MP3 player, set up a playlist and hook the device up to your stereo.

    If you live in an area where fireworks are allowed, ask your guests to bring some so you don’t bear the expense alone. And please shoot your fireworks off responsibly and safely.

    Baked Ziti Recipe

    Baked Ziti

    Prep Time: 25 minutes

    Cook Time: 25 minutes

    Total Time: 1 hour

    Yield: 8

    Fabulous, easy & delicioius

    Ingredients

    • 16 oz Pasta, Ziti
    • 1 lb Beef, Ground, 75% lean
    • 1/2 cup Onions -- chopped
    • 2 cloves Garlic -- minced
    • 6 cup Marinara or Spaghetti Sauce -- divided
    • 8 oz Water -- from pasta
    • 8 oz Mozzarella Cheese -- shredded
    • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese -- grated

    Instructions

  • Drain, reserving 1 cup of the water. Cover and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Brown hamburger with onion and garlic. Drain excess fat.
  • Stir in 5 cups of the spaghetti sauce and pasta water. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Mix meat/sauce mixture with the ziti.
  • Spoon half of the ziti mixture into a 13"x9"x2" baking dish.
  • Sprinkle with Mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
  • Top with remaining Ziti mixture and remaining 1 cup of spaghetti sauce.
  • Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until heated through.
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    Keeping chickens for eggs: is it frugal?

    Eggs-tra Special for You, Happy Easter!I started keeping chickens (hens) about a year ago. I wanted the fresh eggs and I love being self-sufficient. I’ve been keeping detailed records about what I’ve spent and how many eggs my 4 chickens have provided me with.

    Things to consider: cost of a coop (hen house and run), cost of food (feed and ‘scratch’), cost of feeders, waterers, etc.

    By and large, the coop is your most expensive purchase. If you build your own (especially if you use reclaimed & recycled materials) you can save hundreds of dollars.

    A final consideration is the value of your time tending to the chickens.

    From purely a financial point of view, if you just buy the store brand, and aren’t buying free-range or organic — grocery store eggs are, by far, the cheaper option.

    If you compare the cost of local fresh eggs, which sell for about $4 a dozen, then keeping chickens is cheaper in the long run.

    Egg quality is quite different. Farm fresh eggs are richer and have less cholesterol. They also won’t be full of antibiotics and hormones. “You are what you eat” goes for chickens and their eggs. There are organic options for feed, it costs nearly 3x as much. Of course if you live in an area where you can raise free range you don’t have to worry as much about it.

    Chickens are also fun pets! I honestly wouldn’t have believed it had I not experienced it. They are friendly and will follow you around for food and attention. They don’t snuggle like a dog or cat, but you can hold and pet them.

    With just a small flock of chickens they aren’t smelly. Especially when you compare them to dogs or cats.

    Chickens also provide you with fertilizer for your garden and are voracious bug eaters. One of my friends put her chicken tractor right over a vegetable bed that had a lot of grubs and the chickens cleaned it out for her.

    Arc_and_Sloggers_Waterproof_Women_s_Clogs___GrouponChickens do require daily care, but its not very involved. You should also be prepared to clean the coop out weekly, as well as keeping the water dishes and food dishes clean (and full!).

    So, when not measuring just the financials, I think keeping chickens is worth it (and fun!). Heck, I just got 2 more yesterday, bringing my flock up to the maximum size of 6 for my area. (be sure to find out if your city allows chickens before getting them! lots of cities don’t…)

    Strictly by math, it will take a few years before I even break even in terms of investment vs the price of eggs. And I’m okay with that.

    Backyard Gardening to Save Money

    It’s a gorgeous pre-spring day, just over 70 degrees here in Chesapeake, Virginia. I took to the opportunity to get some seeds in the ground for fast-growing cool weather crops. Realistically some of these could have been planted a few weeks ago, but I really don’t like working outside in the cold. I cleared out the first of my raised beds last weekend to get ready to plant.

    peas gardening saves moneyI prefer to use the Square Foot Gardening Method for growing my produce. It’s a method developed by Mel Bartholomew and popularized by his PBS show back in the early 80s. His books have sold over 2 million copies. The basic idea is to buck the traditional farm-style rows and grow more in less space. I’ve used this method with a lot of success, both in San Diego and here in Virginia. For more information about it, you can visit the website Square Foot Gardening. If you’re trying to save money… check your local library for the book!

    I have seeds for my summer crop started in a mini greenhouse on my sun porch. Here’s what I planted today:

    Garden Plot – Front Left “Square”
    Beets
    Red Ace Hybrid
    Swiss Chard
    Bright Lights
    Peas
    Sugar Sprint (bush)
    Peas
    Sugar Sprint (bush)
    Beets
    Red Ace Hybrid
    Lettuce
    Summer Glory Blend
    Peas
    Sugar Sprint (bush)
    Peas
    Sugar Sprint (bush)
    Carrots
    Nandrin Hybrid
    Lettuce
    Summer Glory Blend
    Peas
    Sugar Sprint (bush)
    Peas
    Sugar Sprint (bush)
    Carrots
    Nandrin Hybrid
    Lettuce
    Summer Glory Blend
    Radishes
    Patricia
    Radishes
    Patricia

    If you have space, growing your own vegetables (and fruit) is a great way to save money! The cost of groceries has been going up, and I’ve read there is a likelihood that we’ll see food price increases in the double-digits this year. Aside from saving money, when you grow your own food, you can control what’s in it: you can choose organic methods of pest control and fertilizer, or not… but it’s up to you!

    radishes from my gardenAround here radishes now sell for about $1 a bunch, the lowest I’ve seen in the last year has been 69¢. That’s for a dozen or so radishes. My seed pack contains at least 200 seeds (for $1.20), which will provide at least 10 times more radishes for my money. (the math works out to more, but I’m allowing for natural variations in production).

    Of the plants I chose, the seeds averaged about $2 a pack. In all honesty, I probably won’t use the whole pack of any of them this year. I can choose to share the seeds, or carefully store them for next year. Seeds are packed and sold with dates. That doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t grow past the year they are packed for, but the germination rate may go down. However, properly packaged and stored, seeds can last for years. I keep mine in an ammo can (like my mom did!). It’s weather resistant… and vermin resistant, too. It also is light-proof. I store it in my garage which stays fairly cool all year.

    Radishes typically take 3 or 4 weeks from planting to harvesting, peas take 10 weeks, lettuce takes 4-7 weeks — and can be harvested continually until the weather turns hot and causes it to bolt. Swiss chard, like lettuce can be harvested as needed, and takes roughly 8 weeks to harvest. Carrots take roughly 10 weeks, beets take 8. All of these numbers vary to a degree based on weather, water, etc. I will be able to harvest and replant radishes a few times before most of the other plants are ready to harvest, but using the square foot method, this isn’t a problem.

    In my own gardening ventures I am not strictly organic, but mostly. I compost all of my produce scraps — either putting them directly into my compost bin, or feeding them to my 4 hens, or my red wigglers (worms).

    I’ve built raised boxes over the years out of various materials, frequently re-purposed or reclaimed wood, and I use a dripper system for irrigation. My point is, you don’t have to go out and spend a bunch of money to start a garden. Tools can be borrowed or purchased at garage sales. Seeds are cheap. Research can help you identify ways to save on amending your soil without spending much money.

    Aside from saving money on groceries, gardening is good exercise, gives me a reason to be out working in the yard, and gives me a sense of accomplishment, while feeling a connection with nature. Even if you just start with a tomato in a pot on your porch, consider giving gardening a try!

    Free Credit Reports

    federal trade commission page on free annual credit reportsEven though the law requires it, there are some unscrupulous companies out there that mislead you into thinking you need to know your credit SCORE, which certainly has it’s place, but it’s not necessary when you’re just doing an annual checkup on your credit report to check for accuracy. They will also try to sell you all manner of other services, many of which are a total waste of money.

    Most of the following has been swiped directly from the FTC web page on the subject: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/freereports/index.shtml

    Why should I request (and check) my credit report?

    Because the information in your credit report is used to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, and renting a home, you should be sure the information is accurate and up-to-date.  In addition, monitoring your credit is one of the best ways to spot identity theft.  Check your credit report at least once a year to correct errors and detect unauthorized activity.

    Federa law requires commercial websites that say they offer free credit reports to include a box letting you know you can get a free credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Click on the link to www.AnnualCreditReport.com, the only place to get the free report that’s yours by law.

    Many companies claim to offer free credit reports – and some do. But others give you a report only if you buy other products or services. Still others say they’re giving you a “free” report and then bill you for services you have to cancel. If you go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com and follow the prompts for your free credit report, you can be sure the reports you get really are free.

    What is AnnualCreditReport.com?

    AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source for the free annual credit report that’s yours by law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your credit report for free from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, and yet couldn’t get it without paying fees or buying other services. TV ads, email offers, or online search results may tout “free” credit reports, but there is only one authorized source for a truly free credit report.

    During a class on protecting oneself from identity theft the instructor offered an interesting idea on how to monitor your credit year-round. Since you are entitled to a free report from each of the three big credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Trransunion and Experian), rather than getting them all at once, just order one, then 3 months later, order the next one, then 3 months later the last, then start the series again in 3 months.

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