INFOGRAPHIC TUESDAY: Thanksgiving on a Budget

Pin It This infographic was sent to me to feature, and it has some handy tips and suggestions on how to keep costs down on Thanksgiving. Given the rising crazy food costs, Thanksgiving is not a cheap endeavor by any means! (case in point, we made a Boboli pizza last night and not only was it at least 20% smaller in size than usual but the price went up to 5 BUCKS! GEESH! For a disc of BREAD!? SHAME ON YOU BOBOLI! SHAME!)

Ok. I digress. But I had to get that off my chest, it was so outrageous.

So, this infographic is pretty fun, and extensive (it looks like it goes on forever, right?). I jumped for joy to see my favorite store, Costco, is a great place to get good prices- as well as Target (my second favorite). Walmart is cheap but I can't stand the "juju" in there. It's hard to explain. It just has bad energy. Its not an "experience". Its just a "let me get the stuff off my list at the cheapest price possible and get out" kind of place. But that's just me. It also has good suggestions on paring back on certain things to keep costs down, like liquor.

Although try and tell my Italian family we are cutting back on wine this year?  Yeaaah. Not so much. 

But making a punch or special festive drink concoction is a great idea to stretch your alcohol!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! We have much to be grateful for, don't we!? God bless and safe travels to you and your families!

Thanksgiving infographic

RECIPE: Grand Marnier and Spice Apple Cake

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It is time for you to "MacGyver" a dessert together for a dinner party last minute. You only have the morning to put it (and yourself and family) together because you are out all afternoon.

You have three left over apples from the orchard trip.
A brick of cream cheese.
A bottle of Grand Marnier.

(And some gum. That's for you.)

This cake will get you out of many a tight squeeze such as this. Its very easy, and the Grand Marnier adds a nice citrus note to the cake. You can use orange juice or lemon juice if you want to skip the alcohol. You can use a 9" springform pan, or a 13 x 9 pan, or even a bundt. I adapted it from an old MUFFINS book from Williams Sonoma, that has a ton more in there than just muffins.

Now go save the rest of your day.

Grand Marnier and Spice Apple Cake


1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 baking apples (like Cortlands, Golden Delicious, etc) peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs


1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or Orange juice (or milk)
1/2 tsp. vanilla


Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray your pan with baking spray and set aside.

In a bowl, mix with a fork the flour, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl toss the apples with the Grand Marnier, brown sugar, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss to coat and set aside to macerate for about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Add the dry ingredients in 2 parts, mixing until combined, but don't over mix. Using a spatula, fold in the apples until well combined. Careful to not overmix.

Pour batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until top is golden and toothpick comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, removing springform sides after about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the glaze in a small bowl until a smooth, "drizzle consistency" is achieved. You may need to add more sugar or liquid to achieve the right drizzle.

While cake is still warm, drizzle the top with the glaze using a fork or spoon. Serve warm.

RECIPES: 2for1, Creme Brulee Cupcakes and Dulce De Lece Cake Pops

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It was my husband's birthday last month, and I wanted to make him something special yet something that my daughter and nephew would enjoy as well. I came upon cupcakes (very kid friendly). But one of my husband's favorite desserts is creme brulee (not kid friendly). I thought, is there a way to mix the two together? Well, behold the Internet! I looked around and came across a great little blog called The Beantown Baker. She adapted a creme brulee cupcake recipe from someone else. Here is the blog link: Ironically, she made them for her husband, too!

After I dug into making these, I realized I was going to have a lot of delicious left over cake. To fill these darlings, you need to carve out a coned hole in the middle. It seemed a shame to me. SO I thought, I bet I could make a caramel kind of cake pop with this extra cake. And I did!

So the good news is you don't have to make all this at once. You can store the extra cut cake chunks in an airtight container for a day or two until ready. You can even make the cake ball mixture and store it in the fridge for 3 days until you are ready to shape and finish them. The BEST news, is that you don't waste anything. 

And in this day and age, who can?

One more note. The caramelizing of the brown sugar for these babies is kind of important. It is really what takes these cupcakes into "creme brulee-land". But don't stress. I know I did. I did not have one of those fancy creme brulee torches, nor was I going to buy one. SO what was I going to do? I decided to use an outdoor grill/fire lighter. The outdoor wind resistant ones are a little more powerful, and they are smaller in diameter. I think you can control what you burn on these cupcakes a lot better. From what I read, a few people used torches and melted off all their frosting. You just want to delicately burn and melt areas of the brown sugar on top. So I think this approach is cheaper and better, even if it is more time consuming.

Creme Brulee Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream 


2-1/2 cups  flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt, plus a pinch for the egg whites
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, separated with yolks and whites in clean, separate bowls
1 cup milk 
3 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Brown sugar for sprinkling

Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

1 cup light brown sugar
4 egg whites
dash of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Alternately beat in dry ingredients and milk.

Add caramel syrup and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff but not dry. Gently fold whites into batter. Do not over mix.

Spoon batter into cupcake papers, filling cups about 2/3 full. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and tops are lightly golden.  Remove from oven and cool.

Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Put sugar, egg whites and salt into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm and beginning to thicken slightly. Pour heated egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 7 minutes total.

Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and continue beating 1 minute to reduce air bubbles. Mixture should be smooth, creamy and shiny. Chill the buttercream until ready to use.

To assemble cupcakes

Remove center of cupcake using a small sharp paring knife. I make a cone shape with the tip of the cone about the middle of the cupcake. Fill cupcake with buttercream, mounding it on the top (Reserve about a cups-worth for the cake pops). Sprinkle brown sugar on top. Using your grill lighter, gently heat the brown sugar until it sizzles and caramelizes in places and the buttercream around the sugar becomes golden in places. Take your time and be careful.

Dulce De Lece Cake Pops (Makes about a dozen)


Reserved cake pieces from the previous recipe, crumbled up with your hand to a fine "meal"
1/2 -3/4 cup reserved swiss buttercream from previous recipe
2 oz. softened cream cheese
2 Tbsp. butter, well softened
1/2 cup -3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 Tbsp. milk
bamboo sticks, Popsicle sticks or candy sticks from the candy aisle at a craft store 

1 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 KRAFT caramel squares
2-3 Tbsp. canola oil
Decorative sprinkles or caramel drizzle 


buttercream, vanilla and milk until all well combined. Using your hands, form about 1 inch balls out of the sticky cake mixture and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Once all the mixture is formed into balls, stick your "sticks" in each center. Freeze for about 30 minutes until firm. You can have them freeze longer if you wish. The colder they are the easier they are to top and keep their shape.

In a double boiler, melt the white chocolate chips with the caramel and the oil until smooth, stirring occasionally. The oil will keep things smooth and workable. If the chocolate begins seizing add a touch more oil. I found the caramel to keep things a little stiffer so I used a pastry brush to brush on the topping versus dunking the pop in the chocolate, which I could do easier with my chocolate cake pops (which I will post this week for you!) So take your pops out and brush (or dunk and turn) the chocolate until the pop is evenly covered. Place back on the sheet, pop down. The topping will harden quickly because of how cold the pop is, so sprinkle decorations quickly as you go so they stick on the pop. After all pops are covered, place back in the freezer until ready to serve. I have read that these are best stored in the freezer versus the refrigerator. In the refrigerator they tend to "weep" from the condensation.

INFOGRAPHIC TUESDAY: Whats on your Holiday Shopping List?

Pin It Its that time of year again. Well...sort of.

I mean, it hasn't even been Thanksgiving yet. And I wholeheartedly believe, as this picture of a Nordstrom sign suggests, that you should celebrate one holiday at a time.

Brilliant, right?

But, that being said, my pocketbook can't handle the massive spending in three weeks in December that needs to take place to fulfill our gifting needs, so I do start this month little by little. It just helps with the old bills. So I am sharing this fun breakdown of what people are shopping for.

Pretty neat, huh?
AND, Happy (soon to be) Thanksgiving!

Presented by Blog and Save
Holiday Shopping Trends Statistics Infographic

CRAFTS: 10 Easy and Cheap Sewing Projects for Holiday Gifts!

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If you are like me, you are tight on money and tight on time this holiday season! I usually hand make gifts for friends, teachers and coworkers (as you can see by my craft section). But this year I have had a hankering to sew some things. If you can get fabric on sale, and look through the scraps you already have, you can have your dollar stretch further per gift. In fact, Joann's just had fleece sale for 30% off this weekend. They also had a coupon in the flyer that took 50% off your entire purchase, even sale items! So if you plan on sewing some gifts, keep your eye open for those kinds of deals. You can save a bundle and still give the people you love something beautiful and special.

So I scoured the "interwebs" for some ideas and came across some really great sites and projects I wished to share with my readers and followers. Some of these blogs below are amazing! I just love that social media has allowed people from around the world to easily share and show off their wonderful talents. It has really evened out the playing field and gives everyone a voice. That being said, I have a couple of links from the Goliath's of the craft world, like BHG and Martha. But I cherry picked what I thought was a gift that was useful while being simple/cheap/lovely. That being said, both these sites have a ton more ideas in various slide shows and features, so if nothing here inspires, I am sure you can find something there.

Now to decide on what to make for my list. And I am really trying to convince myself that a woman at my age should not wear a flutter cape. WOW is it cute.

Craft ON, KIDS!

Easy Reversible Tote:
There are a billion totes on the web. I just loved this crafter's blog and style, and wanted to feature her to you all. Take a visit. She is really talented, and this tote is easy and cute. 

Fleece Mittens:
Once, another domestic diva I knew who was in my book club eons ago. She made all the book club members poofy fleece mittens with the cutest giant fleece covered buttons cinched at the wrist, We all kept them for years. I thought about making them this year, and found a similar pattern. You can stitch a button or fleece flower at the wrist to spruce them up.

3D Doily Ornaments:
These pretty ornaments are lovely and delicate for anyone's tree. The ribbon one in particular looks pretty easy.
Torn Fabric Brooch
This seems pretty easy and you can use scrap fabric you have left over from other projects. This would look lovely on a sweater or coat. Also a great blog with a ton of craft ideas.

Fringed Fleece Scarf
Fleece seems like such a versatile fabric because it washes well, and you don't have to sew it all the time. This scarf looks really easy. I think if you make it shorter it would be a little less expensive to make.

Zipper Pansy Pin
A scout leader at camp had a ton of zippers that an old seamstress gave her when she retired. So we were supposed to make these pins at camp, but we ran out of time. I was looking forward to making them. They don't seem that hard, and the beading at the center might be done with glue instead of stitching if you are nervous about your sewing skills.

Hot Pads
Who doesn't need some cute hot pads for the kitchen? You can always have another set. These are adorable.

Ribbon Eye Glass Case
This looks a little more advanced than the other projects, needing fusible interfacing and needing to do some fancy stitch work with your machine. But if you are up for it, this is pretty and usable!

No Sew Fleece Cape/Poncho
A poncho is great when its chilly but not too chilly for a full on coat. It can also be a great fashion accessory in winter. There are two here I found. One has a ribbon and a flutter layer and the other is more simple.

This one is for young girls, and this blogger is amazing! Please visit her site. Its a great balance of nostalgia and down home crafts and cooking.

This easy one can be made for adults and children, and has less fuss

Easy T-Shirt Scarf
I have seen a slew of upcycled T-shirt clothing items in various catalogs this month, sold for 25-50 dollars a piece. Here is a way to use your old T-shirts (or go to the thrift store and buy some with cool/worn designs for $1.00 a piece! Just throw in the wash before cutting up) and make this hip looking scarf! So far this is in the running for the projects. Its "green" and it looks really cool and urban. Also, this is found on a great site with a group of craft contributors. Its easily search-able and it is full of fun ideas.

RECIPE: Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup w/Cheese Souffle Bread

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If you want a comfort food soup and are a little "squashed and pumpkined" out, this is the answer to your craving! This is a super easy soup that is quite delicious. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a food processor or regular blender in batches.

I found this on Epicurious based on a vegetarian cookbook/chef's recipe, Deborah Madison. The reviews complained the soup was bland. So I used chicken stock and opted for fire roasted and seasoned tomatoes at the store. This rendition of the soup was quite flavorful. The recipe included toasted cheese souffle bread which my family went gaga over. This makes plenty of soup, and not quite enough cheese bread. When I make this again I am going to double the cheese bread so I have enough for leftover servings. They go really nicely with the soup.

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup w/Cheese Souffle Bread


2 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
Dash ground cloves
1 1/2 Tbsp. dried basil
2 Tbsp. flour
2 15 oz. cans diced fire roasted tomatoes (you can mix it up with Italian seasoned diced tomatoes, too)
Dash baking soda
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup milk

Bread Toasts:
4 whole grain slices bread, lightly toasted
1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 egg, separated
1 tsp. spicy grain mustard
1 tsp. minced green onion
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)


In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter and oil together. Add the onions and celery and cook until onion are soft and translucent. Add cloves and basil, and stir. Add the flour and whisk into the oils and vegetables until the flour is simmering. Add tomatoes, whisk and simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the baking soda and chicken stock, mix and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Take off the heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add the milk and half and half, and reheat until hot and blended. Keep warm.

Preheat oven to 400˚. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolk in a bowl with the mustard and cayenne pepper. Add the shredded cheese and mix to coat. In another bowl whisk the egg white until soft peaks form. Fold whites into the cheese mixture until just combined. Divide and spread evenly on the bread slices and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake until tops are puffy and golden, about 10 minutes.

Serve soup warm with a cheese toast for dunking.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

INFOGRAPHIC TUESDAY: Your Thanksgiving Meal in Calories

Pin It You may hate me after this one. You may just delete me from your rss and never hear from me again. But I hope not. I just could not resist sharing this infographic. It is so pretty, quaint and homey in it's design. Completely unassuming, like Grandma's dining room. Until you look closer. ANd I thin thats what makes this infographic fun. The graphics and the cold hard horrifying facts of the information it serves up are completely at odds with each other!


If it's one thing we can be thankful for this holiday, after this graph, is that Thanksgiving only comes once a  year!

* pulled from a great health blog,!

RECIPE: My BEST Savory Roasted Pumpkin Seeds EVER

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I know this post is WAAAY after the fact of jack-o-lantern-palooza. HOWEVER, some of you may be carving out a pumpkin for pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup for Thanksgiving...and you may want to roast those seeds as a nice snack as guests are arriving for dinner. So, better late than never, I guess!

This recipe is by far the best seeds I have made to date. HANDS DOWN. I have messed with various seasonings before, but this was the best savory combo to date. The only thing that may make them even better is to boil them in well-salted water before drying them out to give them even better salt distribution. However, these turned out pretty dang good.

The key (s)?

1: Drying them out well. This takes patience but it is well worth it. The oil and seasonings stick better and the seeds roast nicer when they are dried out a bit. After a good rinse, lay them out on a paper towel lined baking sheet and let them air dry overnight or even 12-14 hours total.

2: Smoked paprika. Not regular, plain. Smoked. Trust me.

And a word of caution: Don't eat too many or you will get a tummy ache. You will want to. But don't. I did. I paid for it dearly the next day. But they are that good, you will need to stop yourself.

My BEST Savory Roasted Pumpkin Seeds EVER


4-5 cups rinsed pumpkin seeds, dried overnight on paper towels (see note above)
2 1/2 tsp. olive oil
1 3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
3/4 tsp good balsamic vinegar
3/4 smoked paprika. (smoked is key)
(sometimes for fun I add garlic powder, about 1/2 tsp, but I didn't for this batch)


Preheat oven to 300˚.

In a small bowl, whisk the oil with the vinegar and all the seasonings. Pour the seeds in larger bowl, and pour the seasoned oil over it. Toss seeds to coat evenly. Pour seeds on a foil lined baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 30-40 minutes, tossing and flipping the seeds around with a spatula for even browning. Bake until evenly golden all over and all the moisture is pretty much gone.

Store in an airtight container for 2-3 weeks. Practice restraint.

RECIPE: Healthier and Faster Pasta "Alfredo" with Peas

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Its 6:00 at night. Your daughter is home from basketball practice and got half her homework done...and its dinnertime. There are still 4 tests to study for and your budget is tight for ordering in...which you wish desperately you could do anyway. Your hubby is out with a client so no help there. You also have had nothing but yogurt all day, and want something comforting and "stick to your ribs-ish."

What to do?

I vaguely remembered when I worked on the Kraft account that there was a quick, lighter, fake version of Alfredo using cream cheese. So I used that thought as a base and added a vegetable and used whole wheat shells to make it heartier and healthier. You could use lower fat cream cheese to make this dish even lighter, but I had normal and it was very yummy. It was prepared very fast and my daughter had seconds. I even snuck seconds, too.

Healthier and Faster Pasta "Alfredo" with Peas


1/2 lb. whole wheat shells
1 tbsp. Butter
4 tsp. Flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 oz. cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish


Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and return back to the pan. set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. With a whisk, whisk the flour into the butter until a smooth paste forms. Cook for one minute, whisking constantly. While whisking, add the broth. Whisk until no flour paste is seen. Add the peas. Heat for 5 minutes, then add the cream cheese. Whisk until cream cheese is smoothly mixed in with the broth. Cook over medium heat until beginning to thicken. Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper and parsley as well as the grated Parmesan cheese. Continue simmering until the sauce is nice and thick and the peas are tender.

Add the sauce to the pan with the shells, and toss until coated well. Serve with a sprinkle of grated cheese, and enjoy the ten minutes of some healthy comfort food before continuing your slog through homework!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
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