April 24, 2011

Coupon Craze~

About 4 years ago I caught the "coupon bug". I was newly married and we had just moved to South Florida. At first, I'd only use a few coupons in the newspaper but when I realized how much I was saving combining in store promotions and clipped coupons the craziness began!
 Today, I proudly carry my circled and highlighted grocery store ads along with my coupon organizer and I no longer feel bad about the grumpy people in line behind me in the checkout giving me the stink eye. Come on people I'm saving $80+ here! 

So here are my tips on how to get started in the Coupon Craze. Before you know it you'll be saving a bundle too!
Couponing 101
I get the majority of my coupons out of the Sunday paper.
Last week there were 4 coupon inserts with more than $100 in coupon savings.
On a week like that I buy a few papers.
There are a few determined coupon lovers out there that scour the recycle dumpster or make a deal with their local newspaper distributer to give them the leftover coupon ads from the unsold papers. Crazy or Smart? You decide!
 How far are you willing to go to save?
Image from tlc.com

Just remember if you get 20 newspapers that's a LOT of hours you're going to have to spend every week cutting out and organizing coupons! But is it worth it to save hundreds???

Where to find coupons:
The newspaper isn't the only place to find coupons!

Store Ads:
Many stores have weekly coupons in their print ads. Even if you don't shop at that store cut them out! Check with your local grocery store- they may accept competitors coupons! My grocery store, Publix accepts all other store coupons- and not just grocery stores. I've used Albertsons, Target, even Dollar General coupons at Publix.
BONUS: Publix also let's you double up on coupons if you have a competitor coupon or a Publix coupon. For example if you have a reg coupon for $1 off a can of soup and then you have a Target printed coupon for 50 cents off the same soup you can combine them. With any luck that item will now be just a few cents or even FREE.
The pro couponers plan out their shopping trips according to the weekly grocery store ads. If their store has buy 1 get one free cereal for example they will make sure they have numerous coupons for that cereal and stock up for a few months. They end up getting the cereal for next to nothing! They only buy the products that they have coupons for (except produce and meats). For me this is a little tricky since I don't want to start stockpiling my garage with 40 boxes of cereal but that's how the pros save hundreds and get a lot of free products!

Check out magazines:
Women's and cooking magazines tend to have multiple coupons in each issue.
Don't forget to clip these! 
Online coupons:
Target.com has a great listing, usually updated every week (scroll down to the bottom right of the home page and click "coupons"). Also check out: http://www.weusecoupons.com/ , http://www.coupons.com/ , http://www.smartsource.com/ , and http://www.redplum.com/ .

Free Gift Card Savings!
Sometimes stores will advertise free store gift cards with purchase. I am all over these.
The circled ad above for instance is for razors. My hubby needed razors and I had two coupons so I bought 2 razors that were on sale for $9.89 and saved $6 with coupons and then got a FREE $5 Target giftcard! Score!
Publix sometimes has $10 off a BP or AMEX gift card of $50 or more. I buy a few of these and use them to pay for my groceries or fill up my tank. Hey, you were going to spend the money anyways right? Why not  take the extra step and buy the GC and save?

Coupons on products!
Be sure to check in store products. Many offer coupons taped right on the product!  

Sign up on product websites

Always visit your favorite companies website and join their email list. I often get free coupons and gifts in the mail from companies that want to thank me for being a loyal customer. Or sometimes they want me to try a new product. Or I enter a recipe or giveaway contest on their site and even though I don't win the big prize they still send my product coupons! It's a WIN-WIN!
BONUS: Same goes for restaurant websites. I'm a member of 20+ restaurant email lists and I get free coupons and discounts constantly for my bday, anniversary, holidays or just because!

Staying organized
For the last few years I've kept my coupons in a small wallet sized coupon organizer ($1 section at Target!).
But now I think I'm ready to move up to the big leagues!
I'm puting together a coupon binder which will be bigger yes, but by labeling and organizing coupons in clear business card holders it will be so much easier to sort though (not to mention look nicer!).

Do you want a stockpile room?
Image from tlc.com
Check out TLC's addictive new series, Extreme Couponing.
Some of it may be a little over the top (and boardline hoarding) but truly it's an inspiring show that has some great savings tips for all of us!
Still have questions or want to learn more about couponing? Here's a great video I found featuring Nathan from TLC's Extreme Couponing .
Happy Cooking!
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April 22, 2011

Spectacular Seafood Spuds

When I was a teenager my first job was at McAlister's Deli in Destin, FL. I actually ended up working there until I was 21 and the general manager! Anyway, they have fantastic food, especially their Mega Sweet Tea, Chocolate Chip Cookies, secret recipe Honey Mustard, and HUGE two pound Spuds. People used to ask me how we found potatoes that big and I'd always say they are special Idaho Potatoes! Truthfully they are 2 potatoes put together to make a monster spud!

So my love of spuds comes from my good ol' McAlister's days but the inspiration for this recipe was from another restaurant back home, Fudpuckers. Back in the day, Fudpuckers was a cool seafood bar but now they've turned into a touristy restaurant with fried, bland seafood and a gift shop bigger than the eating area. But they still serve my favorite dish from long ago, the Fud Spud which was my inspiration for Spectacular Seafood Spuds!

  • 4 medium baking potatoes, washed

  • 4 ounces of Philadelphia Original Cooking Creme

  • 1 cup of Kraft Triple Cheddar shredded cheese

  • 1/2 cup of milk

  • 3 tbsp. of flour

  • 3 tbsp. of butter

  • 1/2 pounds of peeled tail off med-large shrimp

  • 2 tbsp. of green onions, chopped

  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil

  • 4 ounces of white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped

  • 2 tbsp. of sour cream (optional)

  • Steps:
    1. Poke holes with a fork in potatoes then place in the microwave for 15-20 minutes until they are cooked through and easily pierced with a fork or bake in a 425 degree oven for 1 hour.
    2. Heat a saute pan with one tbsp olive oil.
    3. Add mushrooms and cook until carmelized and golden. Set aside.
    4. For the cheese sauce, heat a saucepan over medium low and add butter.
    5. Melt butter then stir in flour.
    6. Stir together until thickened then turn down heat to low and add milk.
    7. Stir constantly until well combined and thick then add cooking creme.
    8. Season with salt and white pepper.
    9. Mix in shredded cheese until creamy.
    10. Heat another saute pan over medium and add 1 tbsp olive oil.
    11. Add shrimp, season with salt and ground pepper and cook for a minute until bright pink.
    12. Remove from heat.
    13. Place two potatoes on a serving plate.
    14. Cut the end off of one side of each potato.
    15. Split potatoes open and press cut sides together to form one large spud!
    16. Fluff insides with a fork, pulling potato away from the skin.
    17. Top with half of the mushrooms, shrimp, and then spread on the cream sauce
    18. Add a sprinkle of green onions and serve with a side of sour cream.
    19. Repeat with other spud.
    20. Serve hot and dig in!
    Our star ingredients for the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Contest.
    The makings of a Spectacular Seafood Spud!
    Beautiful Florida Pink Shrimp
    Coarsely chopped white button mushrooms.
    Saute the mushrooms in 1 tbsp olive oil.
    The ingredients for the creamy cheese sauce.

    Make a roux with butter and flour then add
     the Cooking Creme and shredded Triple Cheedar Cheese.
    Saute the peeled shrimp in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
    There's nothing better than fresh, local shrimp!
    Our creamy cheese sauce has melted down and thickened!
    How to make a "McAlister's Spud":
    1. Cut off the end of one side of each potato.
    2. Split potatoes open and press cut ends together.
    3. Fluff with a fork- pulling the potato flesh from the skin
    and making the potato look like one giant spud!
    Add mushrooms and shrimp to the potato.
    Spread on creamy cheese sauce.
    Top with green onions and a side of sour cream.
    Here's my funny "Addicted to Cream Cheese" video
    featuring Spectacular Seafood Spuds!

    Happy Cooking!
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    April 14, 2011

    My Five Favorite Things in April...

    I found this adorable 'menu' vinyl lettering on www.groopdealz.com (which features daily deals on crafty items!). Only $4 for the MENU letters and design and $2 for a square plate from walmart and I have a fun dry erase menu board for my kitchen! Check out http://wonderfullywordy.blogspot.com/ for all her crafty and cute lettering!

    Oh my KitchenAid I think I'm in LOVE~
    NEW! KitchenAid Raspberry Ice Stand Mixer
    designed in honor of the 10th Anniversary of Cook for a Cure.
    I saw this bumper sticker on Facebook and just had to have it!
    Find it on ebay for about $6- just search:
    "Love People Cook Them Tasty Food Bumper Sticker"

    I'm not much for romance novels and when my boss gave me a copy of "Legend" to read I was fairly skeptical. But after just a few chapters I couldn't put it down. Yes, it's a little cheesy and the time travel ideas are quite silly but author Jude Deveraux must be a foodie like me because her heroines in both Legend and The Mulberry Tree are independent, smart, and business savy female chefs. I would read The Mulberry Tree just for the descriptive recipe ideas alone!

    Oh Goat Cheese you've stole my heart!
    I just can't get enough of this
    smooth and creamy, melt in your mouth cheese!
    I use it in salads, melted with vegetables, sprikled on chicken, and most recently in my Creamy Stuffed Artichoke Hearts recipe. Watch the video here:

    Happy Cooking!
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    April 10, 2011

    Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates 2 Ways

    This is one of my top five favorite appetizer recipes! It all started with my Uncle Mike making these for one of his fantastic parties. I tried them (my first time eating dates) and was hooked! He taught me the recipe and now my fellow foodies, I'm teaching you! Everytime I make these- I make them a little differently. This recipe includes cream cheese but many times I just stuff the dates with pistachios, almonds, or apricots only. Have fun with your fillings~ no matter what you use Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates are always delicious!
    Watch my two date cooking videos below! 
    Sweet & Spicy and Savory & Fruity Dates
    4 ounce(s) of Philadelphia Whipped Cream Cheese
    15 jalapeno flavored pistachios
    8 dried apricots, cut in half
    30 large dates, pitted
    10 slices maple bacon
    1 tbsp. of horseradish
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    Grease a large baking sheet.
     Start with jumbo pitted dates.
    Split dates open so you can stuff.
    Cook bacon in a large skillet until halfway cooked, then drain and cool.  
     Cut bacon pieces in thirds with kitchen shears.
    Seperate cream cheese evenly into two bowls.
    Mix horseradish into one bowl. 
     Stuff half of the dates with 1/2 a spoonful of horseradish cream cheese and one pistachio.

     Stuff the remaining dates with plain whipped cream cheese and one 1/2 apricot each.
    Wrap each date with a 1/3 bacon slice and secure with a toothpick. 
    Line wrapped dates on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  
     Serve the Savory & Fruity and Sweet & Spicy Dates to your hungry guests
    and watch their faces light up with joy when they taste the deliciousness!
    Behold the power of cream cheese and bacon!

    Happy Cooking!
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