Ghost Cupcakes…

Today is Halloween and we have a neighborhood party tonight. I am a Christian and this is one of my favorite holidays. I admit it. I like this part of Fall because it incorporates two of my favorite things – cute kids and candy. How could you not love both of those? Both of my kids are dressing up and trick-or-treating. I have their costumes ready but I won’t be surprised if at least one of them throws a hail mary pass in the last seconds of the game. That is just the way it rolls at the Rodi house. Our neighborhood party will have all the kids in the neighborhood dressed up in their costumes trying to win the costume contests, face painting, games and free pizza. Sounds wonderful.

When I saw these cute little ghost cupcakes show up in an email that I got earlier this week, I knew I would have to make them for something. I have asked both kids to help me with them, it is a good memory maker and we can even incorporate some math (in the form of fractions from the measuring devices). I had planned to bring these to the Halloween party tonight but I ended up using all of my vanilla icing for something else but I will be sure to keep this recipe around for next Halloween!

There isn’t really a recipe, more of some instructions on putting them together.

Ghost Cupcakes

Bake chocolate cupcakes. Attach a marshmallow on top of each and cover with slightly softened vanilla frosting. Add mini chocolate chips for eyes and mouth.

 

Caramel Apples…

We are doing something fun to celebrate Fall with my daughter’s 4th grade class. I had thought of making cookies or cupcakes but when I saw this recipe online, I knew that I had to try this with the kids. I love having the kids get hands on with food projects, especially the messy sticky kind. And this one sounds both very messy and very sticky – perfect! And since we are using a fruit, that makes it healthy, right? Happy Fall, Ya’ll!

Caramel Apples
from: A Year of Slow Cooking (click for original recipe post)

Ingredients:

caramel candies (found in the produce section, comes with popsicle sticks)
apples (one bag of caramel makes 4 large apples)
toppings: nuts, mini choc chips, mini m&ms, sprinkles
2 T water

Directions:

Use a 1.5 quart or larger crockpot—I used a 4 quart.

Unwrap all of the caramel, and add them and 2 tablespoons of water to the crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 1 to 2 hours, checking every 20 minutes or so. The caramel is ready when it is shiny and can be stirred easily.

Put the popsicle sticks into the apples by the stems. Use a spoon to ladle the caramel over the apple, and swirl to completely cover the whole thing. Dip into chopped nuts or sprinkles if desired.

Let cool on parchment paper or release foil.

Grocery Total and Weekly Menu 10/27/11

This week was a typical week of Target, Kroger and Publix. I spent more than my unusal amount although I was under my alloted weekly amount of $140. I normally try to keep my totals closer to $100-$110 so that I can put $20 in my grocery stock up envelope for when I find good deals. But the good deals were plentiful today in the meat department of both Target and Kroger. My favorite red meat to buy is the “Laura Lean Beef” brand because it is all natural, without antibiotics or growth hormones. I don’t normally buy a lot of beef and since Laura’s is so much more expensive than all the other brands, I don’t always get to buy it. But, today I found several packages marked down with store coupons on them and I had additional manufacture coupons to go with it. I was able to get 2 rib eye steaks, 1 package of stew beef, 1 package of hamburger patties and 1 family sized package of cube steak and I put into the freezer for upcoming meals. I also got a good deal on Halloween candy ($1.50/bag), Wheat Thins ($.50/box), free Mott’s applesauce and cheap 100% Welch’s grape juice. I love clearance and manager’s specials, they are a bargain shoppers best friend – especially when paired with a coupon or two.

Total Spent: $132.12
Total Value: $218.17
Total Saved: $86.01

Weekly Menu

Friday:
Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches
Honey and Rosemary Sweet Potatoes (NEW RECIPE – see below)

Saturday:
Sesame Chicken
Greenbeans
Steamed Rice

Sunday:
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Yeast Rolls

Monday:
Happy Halloween – Free Pizza @ the Neighborhood Party!

Tuesday:
Chicken Hard Tacos
Corn
Fruit

Wednesday:
Country Fried Cube Steak w/Gravy  
Buttered Baby Potatoes
Fried Okra

Thursday:
Rachel Ray’s Cashew Chicken 
Steamed Rice

Here is the recipe for this week:

Honey and Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup honey
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 large sweet potatoes, cut in 1″ cubes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup. Mix the olive oil, honey, rosemary, salt, and black pepper together in a large bowl and stir the sweet potato cubes in the mixture to coat. Remove sweet potato cubes with a slotted spoon, and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated oven until tender, about 45 minutes. Turn oven heat up to 450 degrees F and bake until browned, another 15 minutes.

Tiffany’s Notes: This was delicious. John, Josh and I really liked it and Brittany said it was okay (which is a high compliment in Brittany’s world). The only changes I made was to use 2 sweet potatoes because that is what I had. I also did not use a slotted spoon, I just dumped it all onto a baking sheet. I baked it for 40 mins at 350 degrees, without increasing the temperature, and it was perfect. This would be a great addition to Thanksgiving dinner!

Rainbow Cupcakes…

We had a Cub Scout den meeting last night and the topic was the environment. The boys learned about recycling and how they can help to change our world. I like to incorporate food into just about everything we do, after all, the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. So, when I saw this recipe online, it seemed like a fit for the lesson. The actual name of the recipe was “Soil Sample Cupcakes” but that isn’t a very pretty name so I renamed it to “Rainbow Cupcakes” since they look like a rainbow of colors. The boys placed a clear plastic straw in the middle of the cupcake and pulled it out to take a “soil sample” just like environment engineers do. They thought it was fun and very tasty, it was a delicious end to the den meeting!

Here is a picture before the “mud” (chocolate frosting) was added to the cupcake:

Rainbow Cupcakes

Equipment:

  • White cake mix, prepared according to package directions
  • four bowls
  • food coloring
  • cupcake liners
  • cupcake pans
  • chocolate frosting
  • green sprinkles
  • straws (clear – thicker ones work better)

Direction

  • Prepare the cake mix according to package directions.
  • Divide the cake mix evenly between the four bowls.
  • Leave one of the bowls white. Mix a different color into the other bowls, so you have three additional colors.
  • Put the liners in the cupcake pans.
  • Carefully spoon the batter into the liners, so that you have different layers of color.
  • Bake according to package directions.
  • Let cool.
  • Frost with icing (for topsoil) and sprinkle with green sprinkles (for grass!)
  • Give each Scout a cupcake and a straw. Have him insert the straw in the cupcake to take a “soil sample”. He should be able to see the layers in the straw. The might even be able to blow through the straw to get the sample out..
  • Explain that this is how core samples by scientists doing environmental research.
  • Let them eat their cupcakes!

Halloween Costumes on a budget…

Halloween is just 1  week from today and it is time to start figuring out what the kids or you should dress up as. If you go to the local party store or a big box retailer, you will see costumes as cheap as $10 and up to hundreds of dollars. For someone who is on a budget, what are you to do? There are a few options available:

#1: Borrow a Costume

As the kids get bigger or their tastes change, you end up with several different costumes laying around that aren’t being used. Why not trade with a friend? Or let your friend borrow your kids’ costume from last year? This is a great no cost way to let the kids switch up what they are each year. Even if you don’t borrow an entire costume, ask around for the accessories that you might need to make a costume work. Maybe you need glasses for Harry Potter or cleats to be a football player? I am sure that someone you know has the item that you can use for a night.

#2: Shop at Home

With some imagination, the kids can turn your old clothes into a new costume for themselves. Brittany decided that she wanted to be a fortune teller/gypsy last night for a costume party. She put together a sparkly top, shoes and earrings from my closet along with a skirt and scarf from her closet and she had an instant costume. We did the same for Josh, since he wanted to be a burglar, we just put him in all black and only had to buy the face mask for $1. His trick or treat bag is an old pillow case that we put a large dollar sign on using black electrical tape. For adults, take a look at your spouse’s closet. Maybe you husbands old football jersey can become a football uniform or your wife’s prom dress can turn into a beauty pageant costume, the ideas are only limited by your imagination.

#3: Thrift Store

The thrift store is full of costume ideas, even if you don’t realize it. Take a look around and see what you can find. Go over to the scrubs/uniform section and find something to be a nurse, doctor or flight attendant. My local thrift store sets up a rack of just Halloween costumes that they get donated. I was able to score 2 Halloween costumes for $4 each and one was selling on eBay for $30! They also have lots of fun accessories that make a costume special such as hats, purses or shoes.

With some imagination and a little time, you can make some awesome costumes for little or no money. Halloween doesn’t have to break the bank to be a fun filled night!

 

 

Grocery Totals and Weekly Menu 10/20/2011

This week I went to Publix once, Kroger 2 times and Target once – a pretty normal week. I got a pretty good deal on Halloween candy at $1/bag, small honeygold potatoes at $1/bag, garlic bread at $.65/box and peanut butter at $.99/jar. The price of peanut butter is supposedly going up around mid-November so stocking up on peanut butter now is a good idea. Here is an article that my brother sent to me, explaining it:

http://money.cnn.com/2011/10/14/markets/peanut_butter_prices/

Total Spent: $109.11
Total Value: $183.95
Total Saved: $74.84

Weekly Menu

Friday:
Shrimp Soft Tacos
Guacamole
Buttered Honeygold Potatoes

Saturday:
Sweet & Sour Chicken
Steamed Broccoli
Rice

Sunday:
Pizza Casserole (NEW RECIPE)

Monday:
Chicken Quesadillas (w/mushrooms & spinach)
Rice

Tuesday:
Linguine with Chicken Scampi
Garlic Bread

Wednesday:
(Crockpot) Famous Cheesy Potato Bacon Soup  
Homemade Crescent Rolls

Thursday:
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Leftover Rolls

Here is the recipe for this week: (I haven’t tried this recipe yet but when I do, I will come back and review it)

Pizza Casserole

Ingredients:

1 bag of Egg Noodles

1 extra large can of tomato sauce

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 1/2 lbs ground turkey

1/2 package pepperonis

 

Directions:

Preheat oven 350. Brown the meat, & drain.  And boil noodles until soft. Drain.

Now the layering starts!

1)Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom.

2)half of the noodles.

3} half of the meat

4} half of the sauce

5} rest of the noodles

6} half the cheese

7} rest of the meat

8} rest of the sauce

9} rest of the cheese

10} pepperonis

Now cover with foil, and bake for 30 mins.

After 30 minutes, remove the foil & bake for another 15 minutes

Once it’s done baking, take it out & let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes. This is to cool it off AND to let everything settle together. If you don’t let it sit, it will just fall apart on your fork!

 

Cub Scout Camping…

We like to camp as a family. We go at least 3 or 4 times per year and I would go more if we had more time. It is a great time to bond together out in nature and an inexpensive form of family entertainment. The key to having fun camping is to plan well before you leave the house. I have a checklist (at the bottom of this post is the Cub Scout camping checklist) that I go through every time we camp to make sure we have all we need while we are out in the woods.

We went camping at Scoutland, a Cub Scout facility, this past weekend. This facility is more primitive than what I normally like when I am camping. The campsites are not laid out, it is more just pitch a tent in the woods. And the bathrooms have running water and lights but sometimes lack toilet paper and there are no hot showers. But the best part is the people you get to camp with. There is such a camaraderie to cub scout camping. Everyone gathers around a huge bonfire and makes s’mores at night. The kids love it, throwing sticks in the fire and dancing around like a scene from Lord of the Flies. We also gather for the morning and evening meal. I love the sense of living in a small village for a weekend.

The days of cub scout camping are spent doing activities that help the boys further their scouting experiences and earn belt loops and pins. Josh took advantage of some new activities (badminton) while also squeezing in some favorites (archery and bb shooting).

Brittany got to enjoy the same activities as Josh but I think she most enjoyed the crafting that they had. Most of the boys were not as interested in the crafts as they were the bb guns, for obvious reasons.

Another reason I like cub scout camping is that it gives the boys a chance to cut loose and be boys. They are able to throw sticks and rocks into a lake just to see them make a splash. They can play in the mud and chase each other with pretend guns. I don’t think that kids in general have enough time in our society to be kids but boys especially are expected to deny their testosterone and DNA that makes them more physical. Scouting teaches the boys skills but it also gives them the opportunity that they don’t get other times to just be boys. For example, here is a picture of the target that Josh made to shoot at the bb range. John commented that if Josh had drawn this at school, we would be getting a call from the school counselor!

In case you can’t tell from the picture, it is a head with blood, hypodermic needles and screams for help drawn on it. Yes, that is the male DNA at work.

My favorite part of camping this weekend was spending time with him and the kids uninterrupted. There is no tv, computer or other distractions to pull us away from each other. We are able to chase the kids around in the dark or play countless games of Uno with scheduling pressing down upon us. We are forced to rely on each other and connect in a way that we do not do on a daily basis.

Take advantage of this beautiful fall weather by taking your kids camping. Load up the minivan and borrow a tent from someone. These are memories that will last a lifetime and moments that you will not regret spending with your family.

CampingSupplyList

Vegetable Beef Soup…

Oh, how I love Fall. When the temperature drops and the air turns crisp, I am reminded that it is becoming soup time of year. The soup I had for lunch yesterday was not made by my two hands. A friend of mine made it last week and gave me some as a gesture of good will. I am glad that she took pity on my poor soupless soul and blessed me. It made a tasty lunch yesterday, with just the right amount of  spice to warm you up. I love the way it reuses meat that you have already cooked for another meal, since I am always about using what you have. Monica did not mention if she used a crockpot to cook this but just from reading the recipe I would think this would be a perfect crockpot recipe. You can throw it all in there on low all day and have a warm delicious meal by dinnertime.

Here is the recipe from Monica, with her notes included:

Monica’s Vegetable Beef Soup

Use leftover pot roast and broth for soup base.  For those that like an exact recipe, I measured and it was 2 1/2 cups of meat and 2 1/2 cups of broth.  But less/more is fine.

Add whatever you like or have on hand to your soup.  If you have some leftover vegetables in the fridge you can just throw them in.

Here is what I used:

1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can Rotel hot tomatoes
1 can green peas
1 can green beans
16 oz. frozen white corn
9 oz. frozen sugar snap peas
32 oz. tomato juice

1-2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped

Boil the onion and carrots until tender and add to the soup.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

 

Grocery Totals and Weekly Menu 10/13/2011

This was a crazy grocery shopping week this week. I have been running around to get items for camping and made several mini trips instead of just my usual big ones. Looking at my grocery totals, they aren’t as bad as I thought they would be considering that went to the store so many times. This week I went to Publix 3 times, Kroger 2 times, Target 1 time and Walmart 1 time. Wow! I am exhausted just typing all of that! It is a good thing that I don’t include how much gas I used in my grocery totals since I am sure that would affect my savings amount!

Total Spent: $117.15
Total Value: $184.24
Total Saved: $67.09

Weekly Menu

Friday:
Panera Bread (ok, I know this isn’t camping food but it was the only place we could find to eat on the way to the campground!!)

Saturday:
Campfire hotdogs
Mac & Cheese
Baked Beans
Chips

Sunday:
Frozen Pizza
Apple Slices

Monday:
PW’s Chicken Spaghetti (recipe below)
Italian Bread

Tuesday:
(Crockpot) Bone-In Chicken
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Fried Okra

Wednesday:
Meatball Subs
Tator Tots
Apples

Thursday:
Chicken & Dumplings

Here is the recipe for this week:

Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Spaghetti (click on the recipe to see the original on PW’s website)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Cooked Chicken
  • 3 cups Dry Spaghetti, Broken Into Two Inch Pieces
  • 2 cans Cream Of Mushroom Soup
  • 2 cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Finely Diced Green Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Finely Diced Onion
  • 1 jar (4 Ounce) Diced Pimentos, Drained
  • 2 cups Reserved Chicken Broth From Pot
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon (to 1/4 Teaspoon) Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Additional Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Preparation Instructions

Cook 1 cut up fryer and pick out the meat to make two cups. Cook spaghetti in same chicken broth until al dente. Do not overcook. When spaghetti is cooked, combine with remaining ingredients except additional 1 cup sharp cheddar.

Place mixture in casserole pan and top with remaining sharp cheddar. Cover and freeze up to six months, cover and refrigerate up to two days, or bake immediately: 350 degrees for 45 minutes until bubbly. (If the cheese on top starts to get too cooked, cover with foil).

Tiffany’s Notes: I use boneless skinless chicken breast that I boil and shred. I also cut the recipe in half unless I am making enough to put in the freezer for a meal down the road. I also don’t use the onion (because it doesn’t like me) or the pimento (because I never have any) but I do throw in some mushrooms if I have some lying around (which always seems to be the case). Yummy, especially on a cold day!

Butter Baked Chicken…

 

This is one of my kids favorite dishes, they aptly named it “crumby chicken” because of the cracker crumbs on the outside. John calls it “crack chicken” because it must have crack in it to make it so addictive, once you start eating it you just can’t stop. Whatever you call it, just be sure to make it for dinner. I serve this with homemade creamed corn and a green veggie.

Butter Baked Chicken

8 tablespoons butter or margarine (you can use as little as 2 tablespoons)
2 eggs beaten
1 sleeve Ritz Crackers
1 tsp garlic salt
Pepper to taste
2 boneless chicken breasts

Directions:

Heat oven to 350. Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray.

Crush crackers until fine add the garlic salt and pepper.

Wash and prepare the chicken, cutting it into strips or nuggets.

Dip the chicken in the eggs then in the crackers then lay in the pan.

Once all chicken is in the pan cut the butter into little chunks and place all around the chicken.

Place in the oven and bake for about 30 to 45 minutes or until the crumbs are golden and the chicken is thoroughly cooked.