Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Salad

This is one of my favorite salad recipes. We always have it for Christmas dinner at my parents' house. The colors are very festive and the flavors always remind me of Christmas. I recently made this salad for our ward party and it was a huge hit. It's so delicious!

Printable Recipe

Christmas Salad
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp poppy seeds

Salad Ingredients:
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup swiss cheese, cut into cubes or shredded
1 medium apple, cubed
1 medium pear, cubed
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup cashews, coarsely chopped (optional)

To make dressing blend together sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, onion, and salt. With blender running, gradually add oil. Then add poppy seeds and blend together until well mixed.

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, cheese, apple, pear, and dried cranberries. Add desired amount of dressing and cashews. Toss to coat.

*Note: This makes a lot of dressing. You probably won't use all of it to dress the salad.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Andes Mint Fudge

Chocolate and mint is one of my very favorite flavor combinations. This fudge was so delicious and it was so easy to make. The only problem is it's a little addicting!

Andes Mint Fudge
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow creme
1 (5 oz) can evaporated milk
1 (10 oz) bag Andes Mint Baking Chips
1 tsp vanilla extract

Line a 9x13 baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray; set aside. In a large saucepan, heat butter, sugar, marshmallow creme, and evaporated milk over medium heat until it boils, stirring constantly. Let boil and stir constantly for 5 minutes. Add Andes Mint chips and vanilla and stir until the chips are melted. Immediately pour into prepared pan. Refrigerate for about 2 hours to set up. Cut into 1 inch squares.

Recipe adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff

Monday, December 22, 2014

Peanut Butter Truffles

These truffles taste just like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. They are so delicious!

Peanut Butter Truffles
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 bags milk chocolate chips (about 18 oz)

Mix together graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, peanut butter, and butter. Mix well. Shape into 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes. 

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate at 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until completely melted. Dip each ball into the chocolate and place on the parchment lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate until completely set. 

Makes 4-5 dozen truffles

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chocolate Orange Brownies

When I was a little girl, my grandma used to give us chocolate oranges for Christmas. Now I always get one in my stocking, even if it means buying it myself. It's one of my favorite Christmas treats and it brings back so many memories. When I tasted these brownies, it brought back all of those Christmas memories. These brownies taste just like a chocolate orange. They were so heavenly!

Printable Recipe

Chocolate Orange Brownies

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla

Orange frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp orange extract
red & yellow food coloring

Chocolate topping:
2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350. Beat together butter, sugar, and cocoa. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add flour, salt, and vanilla and mix well. Spread onto a greased cookie sheet (10x15x1). Bake for 22-25 minutes. Cool for about 30 minutes before frosting.

To make orange frosting, mix together butter, powdered sugar, milk, and orange extract. Add 10 drops of yellow food coloring and 3 drops of red food coloring to get the pale orange color. Frost brownies and place in the freezer for about 20 minutes.

To make chocolate topping, melt chocolate chips and butter in the microwave at 30 second intervals until melted, stirring in between. Spread over frosting. Place in the refrigerator to set.

Makes about 35 brownies

Recipe adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Great Deal at Alaska Airlines: Flights as low as $49 one way plus a 5% discount!

Right now at Alaska Airlines, you can get an additional 5% off their already low prices using the discount code EC6208. You have to book by December 22, 2014 and travel between January 4, 2015 and February 11, 2015. Some flights are as low as $49 one way before the discount. So you could fly from Salt Lake to San Francisco for just $93 per person round trip! If you're thinking about traveling in the next few months, you definitely need to check this out. Click here to book.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Andes Mint Cookies

These are my favorite Christmas cookies. They are seriously so good! I make these every year at Christmas time.

Printable Recipe

Andes Mint Cookies
2 eggs
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1 pkg Andes mint baking bits, divided (or 2 cups Andes mint candies chopped)

Beat together eggs, butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Add cocoa, baking soda, and flour. Mix well. Add chocolate chips and 1 cup Andes mints. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

Pour about 1 cup of sugar in a small bowl. Roll cookie dough into balls and then roll in sugar. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 9-13 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately place a small amount of chopped Andes mints on top of each cookie. Press down into the cookie so it melts. Cool cookies on wire racks.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Friday, December 12, 2014

Grocery Coupon Apps

There are a lot of apps that save you money on groceries. It's like using coupons at the grocery store without actually having to clip coupons. They all work pretty much the same way. Each app has different items with a designated amount off. After you buy the items, you submit a picture of your receipt and you're credited the amount of money you saved. When you reach a certain amount you can cash out. You can get cash or a gift card, depending on the app. It's pretty simple.

Here is a list of the apps that I use:

Checkout 51

Snap by Groupon



I usually check all of these apps before I go grocery shopping to see which coupons I would like to use. I only buy things that I would normally buy. I don't buy something just because there's a coupon for it. Each time I go shopping, I usually get anywhere from $ .25 to $4.00. I know that's not a lot of money but if you do this every time you shop, it will add up fast.

Also, if you shop at Smith's (or a Korger affiliated store) you can load coupons to your rewards card. When the item is scanned, it automatically comes off your total. So easy! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pasta Fagioli Soup

Printable Recipe

Pasta Fagioli Soup
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, undrained
1 can (15 oz) great northern beans, undrained
2 cans (8 oz) tomato sauce
12 oz V-8 juice
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
dash of cayenne pepper
8 oz bowtie pasta

In a large pot, brown ground beef and drain. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, except pasta, and simmer for 1 hour. With about 10 minutes left, cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta, then stir into soup. Simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Serves 8

Monday, December 8, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Chili Over Rice

I love meals like this. Just throw everything in the crock pot and let it cook all day. When you're ready to eat, there's not much to do. So easy and so delicious!

Printable Recipe

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Chili Over Rice
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 (15 oz) can corn, drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 (10 oz) can red enchilada sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic salt

Place all ingredients in a crock pot. Cover and cook on low heat for 5-6 hours. Shred chicken into bite size pieces. Serve over cooked rice. Top with cheese and cilantro, if desired.

Serves 6-8

Recipe adapted from Picky Palate

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Earn 4x Fuel Rewards Points at Smith's

Smith's is offering 4x fuel rewards points through Dec. 9th. So you have just under a week to buy gift cards for Christmas. Or if you just want to stock up on restaurant or retail gift cards, it's a great way to save money on gas.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Chocolate Toffee Pie

This is one of my favorite pies. Not only does it look good, it's also super easy to make. It only takes about 10 minutes to make this delicious pie. It doesn't get any easier than that! My kids love this pie and they're always asking me to make it. I made this for Thanksgiving but it would be great any time of the year.

Printable Recipe

Chocolate Toffee Pie
1 oreo or chocolate pie crust (6 oz)
2 cups milk
2 pkg. (4 serving size) instant chocolate pudding
1 tub cool whip, thawed, divided
6 Tbsp. Heath toffee bits, divided
1 square semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted

Pour milk into a large bowl. Add dry pudding mixes. Beat with wire whisk for 2 minutes or until well blended. Gently stir in 1 1/2 cups of the cool whip. Stir in 3 Tbsp of the toffee bits. Spoon into crust. Top with remaining cool whip. Sprinkle with remaining 3 Tbsp toffee bits. Drizzle with melted chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 8

Recipe adapted from Kraft

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Homemade Stuffing

This is my mother-in-law's stuffing recipe. Her whole family goes crazy over it. Whenever we have Thanksgiving with my family, my husband has to make this so he doesn't miss out on his mom's stuffing. This is the best stuffing ever!

Printable Recipe

Homemade Stuffing
1 loaf of bread, toasted and broken up
1 onion, diced
2 eggs
1 can evaporated milk, with a little water
1 cube butter, melted
1 cup celery, diced
2 Tbsp poultry seasoning
1/2 cup turkey drippings
salt and pepper

Pour turkey drippings in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Add all ingredients and mix well. Loosely cover and bake at 350 for 1 hour. Stir every 15-20 minutes. Remove cover for the last 15 minutes to brown.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Roasted Turkey

I hate to admit it but I've never actually made a turkey. Yep, that's right. My husband makes the turkey every year. It actually makes my Thanksgivings pretty stress free. He found this recipe on the Food Network about five years ago and he's been making it ever since. This is the most tender and moist turkey I've ever had. It's so delicious! I promise if you make this, you'll never make a turkey any other way!

Roasted Turkey

1 (14-20 lb) turkey

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1/2 Tbsp allspice berries
1/2 Tbsp candied ginger
1 gallon iced water

1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
canola oil

*The first two steps need to be done at least 6-7 hours before you make the turkey. We do this the night before and let it soak in the brine overnight.

In a large pot, combine all of the brine ingredients except for the ice water and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled. 

Combine brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket. We use a large cooler. Place thawed turkey breast-side down in brine. Cover and refrigerate or place in a cool area (like a basement or garage) for 6 hours or overnight. 

When ready to roast, preheat oven to 500. 

Combine apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water and microwave for 5 minutes. 

Remove turkey from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.

Place turkey on a roasting rack in a large roasting pan. Pat dry with paper towels. Add aromatics into cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back the wings and coat whole turkey liberally with canola oil.

Roast on the lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil. Insert thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. For a 20 lb turkey cook for 3 1/2 hours. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.

Recipe adapted from Good Eats

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

(Deal is expired) Earn 50,000 Bonus Points When You Sign Up For The Rapid Rewards Credit Card

If you're looking for a rewards credit card to earn flight miles, now is the time to do it! Southwest Airlines is currently offering 50,000 bonus points when you sign up for their Rapid Rewards credit card and spend $2,000 in the first 3 months. You have until February 28, 2015 to sign up. The bonus is normally 25,000 points so this is an awesome deal!

Here is how the points break down:

If you booked a flight that was $200, you could redeem it for about 10,000 points. A $300 flight would be about 16,000 points and a $400 flight would be about 25,000 points.

The 50,000 bonus points would be enough for at least 2 roundtrip tickets, depending on where you fly to. Plus you earn one point for every dollar that you spend using the card. 

This is such a great deal. If you want to sign up, you can apply here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Frosted Pumpkin Sugar Cookie Bars

I love sugar cookies but I don't always love making cookies. So when it's a bar instead of a cookie it's perfect. These bars were a little thicker than cookies. They were in between cookies and cake. The pumpkin flavor combined with the cream cheese frosting was heavenly!

Printable Recipe

Frosted Pumpkin Sugar Cookie Bars

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp milk
3-4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Mix in vanilla and pumpkin.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Spread into a greased cookie sheet (15x10x1). (Spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray and use your hands to spread the dough onto the pan because the dough will be really thick and sticky.)

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the bars are golden brown. Cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting, cream together cream cheese and butter. Add vanilla, milk, and powdered sugar. Spread frosting over cooled bars.

Recipe adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Black Friday Ads (2014)

A lot of stores have started to post their Black Friday ads online. I compiled a list of some of the ads that are available. I will continue to add more links once the ads come out so keep checking back.

Best Buy
JC Penney 
Radio Shack

*Also, check my post on Black Friday shopping to find out how to get these prices online without going to the stores on Black Friday. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Great Deal ~ Franz Bakery

I recently discovered Franz Bakery and I thought it was amazing! I bought all of this bread for $15!
They have so much bread to choose from and it's all delicious. It freezes well so you can easily stock up. Plus, if you spend a certain amount you get to pick some bread for free! We all know how much I love getting things for free! 

They have stores all over the Northwest. Check it out!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Chicken Corn Chowder

I love this soup! It's packed with flavor and it has the perfect amount of heat.

Printable Recipe

Chicken Corn Chowder
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped, seeds and membranes removed
1 cup chopped cooked ham
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz chicken broth
3 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cup frozen corn
1 1/2 lb chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup cheese

Heat oil in a large pot. Add celery, bell pepper, onion, and jalapeno. Saute for about 5 minutes until tender. Stir in ham and garlic. Cook for another 3 minutes. Whisk together chicken broth and flour; stir into soup. Add corn and chicken. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Whisk together cream cheese and milk. Whisk into soup. Add salt, pepper, and cheese. Simmer until heated through.

Serves 6

Recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Earn 4x Fuel Rewards Points This Saturday

I just saw in my local Smith's ad that they're offering 4x Fuel Rewards points this Saturday November 8th. So if you're planning on buying gift cards to shop for Christmas gifts or you just want to stock up, this is a great time to buy them to save on gas. If you live outside of Utah, check the ad for your local Kroger store near you to see if they're offering the same promotion.

*To see my post on how I save money on gas, click here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How To Get Black Friday Prices Before Black Friday

It's about that time of year again! Christmas is just around the corner...

I love Christmas! I love everything about it. The music, the lights, the parties, the treats, EVERYTHING!!! I especially love Christmas shopping and finding awesome deals. My kids know they're not getting what they want unless I can find it for a good deal. When they open their presents, they sometimes ask how much I paid for it because they know I wouldn't have bought it unless it was a good deal.

I usually go to a few stores every year on Black Friday but I've never gone in the middle of the night. Once I went to Walmart at 10 pm on Thanksgiving and it was CRAZY!!! I got everything I wanted and it was a huge adrenaline rush. I actually really loved it! But I just don't like the fact that the stores are opening earlier and earlier every year on Thanksgiving. I think that time should be spent with family and not in a store.

So did you know that you can actually get Black Friday prices without going shopping on Black Friday?

Here are my tips...

First, decide what your budget is going to be for Christmas gifts. Then have your kids make a list of everything they want. From that list, make another list of what you want to buy. Check different stores online to find out how much each item will cost and write it down on your list. I usually check Amazon, Walmart, and Target and that gives me a pretty good idea about how much each thing will cost. Then check the websites frequently to see if the price drops. If the price drops significantly, buy it. If you can get everything on your list for a lower price you'll be able to save a significant amount or maybe even get more for your money.

When the Black Friday ads come out, check the ad for each store. The ads should be coming out in a few weeks and you will be able to view them online. Decide if there's anything that is worth going shopping for on Black Friday. You might find something that's worth going to the store for but keep in mind that you might have to go early and wait in line. It also might cut into your time with your family on Thanksgiving.

If you find something in the ads that you really want, check around online. You may be able to find it for the same price before Black Friday.

Here are some things that I have learned about different stores:

Amazon is very competitive with their prices. If there is something advertised at another store, there is a good chance that Amazon will lower their prices to match it. Right now Amazon has their Countdown to Black Friday sale and you can get some awesome deals. They also have a Holiday deal page with lightning deals. If you're not familiar with this you need to check it out. I've used this multiple times and scored some amazing deals. How it works is each day there are specific items that will go on sale at certain times. The price won't be listed until the sale is live. Once it goes live, you can buy it for the sale price but the quantities are limited. I've seen things sell out in less than five minutes! If you're an Amazon Prime member you can have access to certain deals a half hour early.

I would recommend checking the Lightning Deals page every morning to see if there's anything you want. If you find something, go back to that page at the designated time and buy it. But you have to hurry because it can go quick.

Here are the links:
Lightning Deals
Toy Lightning Deals

There are some great deals at Walmart on Black Friday but that place can be a madhouse! I know because I've been there on Black Friday! Did you know that some of the items advertised in the Black Friday ad are also sold online for the same price on Thanksgiving day? This is unadvertised and you never now which items will be sold online but it's worth a shot. Last year I wanted to get a Little Tykes kitchen for my daughter that was advertised in their Black Friday ad. So I woke up early on Thanksgiving and I checked the Walmart website. The kitchen was in stock! I added it to my cart and it took 15 minutes to get to my cart because there were so many people on the website. But I got it and I was so excited that I wasn't going to have to leave our Thanksgiving dinner early and fight the crowd to buy a toy for my daughter.

Sometimes I feel like I have to get a little creative when I shop at Kohl's. A lot of their prices are higher but when you combine the 20-30% off coupons and the Kohl's cash, you can get some great deals. Kohl's also has a new rewards program Yes2You Rewards. You earn 1 point for every dollar that you spend and once you've reached 100 points, you'll get a $5 reward certificate. This is in addition to all of the other deals that they have.

Kohl's also sells a lot of things online for Black Friday prices and their sell starts a few days before Thanksgiving. So there really is no need to even go to the store.

Target is also very competitive with their prices. This year they are offering free shipping on all purchases made online until Christmas. No minimum purchase required! They also have a Cartwheel app that is awesome. If you pay attention to the Carthwheel app you might be able to score some great deals. Some of their deals are one day only so you have to go to the store early because they run out fast!

*When shopping online don't forget to shop through Ebates and earn cashback! It's a great way to earn some extra cash just for shopping. It's totally legit. I've earned about $75 in the last year!

*To maximize your savings, check out my post on how to earn money by shopping online.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pumpkin Waffles

I love this time of year! I especially love that it's pumpkin season! These pumpkin waffles were so delicious. Perfect on a fall morning.

Printable Recipe

Pumpkin Waffles
2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
4 eggs
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, mix together milk, pumpkin puree, eggs, butter, brown sugar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well. Cook according to directions on your waffle maker. Serve topped with syrup.

Serves 6-8

Recipe adapted from Creme De La Crumb

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Witches Brooms

This is an easy and fun Halloween idea that my kids loved! It would be great for a Halloween party or just something that the kids can make.

Witches Brooms
1 package of miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Pretzel sticks

Unwrap the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Stick a pretzel stick in the center of each peanut butter cup to make a broom.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monster Meatballs

I love making fun Halloween meals for my kids. Especially when they're simple like this. I made spaghetti and meatballs but we called the meatballs "monsters" and we served them over "worms". My kids had so much fun decorating their own "monster." Some of my kids put lots of eyeballs all over their monsters. They had so much fun!

Monster Meatballs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 lbs lean ground beef, or a combination of ground beef, pork, and/or turkey
2 tsps dried parsley
1 egg
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Marinara sauce:
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup grated onion
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the panko bread crumbs and buttermilk. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and all other ingredients. Mix well.

Shape into large golf-ball sized meatballs and place about 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from oven and drain on paper towels before transferring them to a plate. 

To make marinara sauce, melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes. 

Serve meatballs over spaghetti noodles and top with marinara sauce. Place two olives on each meatball for the eyeballs.

Makes about 24-30 meatballs

Recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nutter Butter Ghosts

My kids love these Nutter Butter Ghosts. Aren't they so cute? The best part was how simple they were to make. Just dip them in chocolate and stick on the eyes. That's it! I'm all about simplifying things. I don't see the point of spending hours making something when the kids are going to be just as happy with something simple.

Nutter Butter Ghosts
1 lb pkg Nutter Butter cookies
1 1/2 lb white chocolate chips or vanilla candy coating
64 mini chocolate chips (about 4 tsp)

Place white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until melted. Using tongs, dip each Nutter Butter into the white chocolate, letting the excess drip off. Place on wax paper. Place two chocolate chips on each cookie to form the eyes. Let stand for 10 minutes until set. 

Recipe adapted from Tablespoon

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Easy Halloween Party

There are a lot of moms who really go all out for parties. If that's how you are and you like to do that, that's great!

I have found that when I spend a lot of time planning a party and I really go all out, my kids don't really care. I always have high expectations about how it will turn out and my kids just don't appreciate what I do. And then I'm frustrated! So I have learned to keep things simple and only focus on the details that matter. My kids always have so much fun at our simple parties and I don't spend a lot of time or money so we all win!

This weekend we had a Halloween party with my kids and their cousins. It was simple, low-key, and inexpensive. The kids had a blast!

This is what we did:
Monster Pizzas
(Click here for the recipe)
The kids had so much fun making their own "monsters."

 Spooky Halloween Drink
You can do this with any drink. I just used soda because it was easier but any drink will work. All you do is fill a plastic glove with water, tie it off, and stick it in the freezer. When you're ready, carefully cut off the glove and place the ice hand in the punch bowl. Sometimes the fingers fall off, like in the picture above, but that only adds dramatic effect. The kids love this drink!

We played two games at the party and they were both very simple and inexpensive. I only spent about $2.00 on ping pong balls that we used for both games. The kids had so much fun playing these games! Either one of these games would be great for class parties.

Eyeball Toss
Items needed:
5 or 6 ping pong balls with an eyeball drawn on each one
2 different size bowls

Each kid will take turns bouncing the "eyeball" into one of the bowls. The smaller bowl is worth 10 points and the larger ball is worth 5 points. The person to score the most points wins!

Eyeball and Spoon Race
Items needed:
2 ping pong balls with an eyeball drawn on each one
2 spoons

This game is played just like the egg and spoon race game. The kids will form 2 lines. The kids will place the "eyeball" on their spoon and race to a designated spot and back without dropping the "eyeball." Then they will pass the spoon and "eyeball" to the next person in line. The team that finishes first wins!

Monster Pizzas

This is my kids' favorite thing to make for Halloween. They can make their own "monster" however they want. It's so much fun!

Printable Recipe

Monster Pizzas
1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
pizza sauce
bell pepper
any other desired pizza toppings

Cut dough into 6 equal sections. Roll out each section until flat. Top with pizza sauce, cheese, and desired toppings. Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes.

Makes 6 individual pizzas

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How I Save Money on Gas

Here is my big secret:

Gift Cards

I do the majority of my grocery shopping at Smith's. If you live outside of Utah, any Kroger affiliated grocery store works the same way. When you buy groceries at Smith's, you earn one point for every dollar that you spend. 100 points equals 10 cents off each gallon of gas (up to 35 gallons).

When you buy gift cards, they offer 2 points per dollar. Frequently they have promos where they offer 4 points per dollar. They have a huge selection of gift cards. They sell gift cards for most restaurants and retail stores.

If you bought a $25 gift card to your favorite restaurant, you would earn 100 points (during the 4 point per dollar promo) which equals 10 cents off each gallon. If you got 35 gallons of gas, you would save $3.50 which is essentially earning 14% cashback from buying that $25 gift card.

So how do I maximize my savings on gas? Every time I go to Smith's, I think about where I'm going to shop during the week. If I need to go to Target, I'll buy a gift card. If my kids need clothes, I'll buy a Children's Place gift card. When we remodeled our bathrooms this year, we bought A LOT of Home Depot gift cards. I also stock up on gift cards to our favorite restaurants. When we go out to eat, we look through our stash of gift cards and choose where we want to eat. The best part is that they're already paid for! I usually earn enough points every month to get at least $1.00 off each gallon of gas. 

What I recommend:
*Stock up when they offer the 4 points per dollar promo.
*Buy gift cards for restaurants and stores that you frequently shop at.
*With the holidays coming up, buy gift cards for whatever stores you're planning on shopping at. If you're giving gift cards for Christmas gifts, this is the place to buy them.
*Make sure you keep track of what gift cards you buy and actually use them. If you're buying gift cards just to save on gas, it kind of defeats the point.
*When you buy gas make sure you take two vehicles and purchase all 35 gallons to maximize your savings. Get a $1 off per gallon and buy 35 gallons...guess what, you just saved $35.
*Enjoy your gas savings!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chicken and White Bean Enchiladas

These enchiladas were so tasty with just the right amount of heat. You can add more or less jalapeno depending on the way you like it. My kids like their food with a little heat, but not too much!

Printable Recipe

Chicken and White Bean Enchiladas

Chicken and white bean filling:
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles
1 can (15 oz) navy beans or cannellini beans
1/2 cup water
1 tsp chicken bouillon granules
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb cooked shredded chicken

Green chile sauce:
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 (4 oz) cans diced green chiles
1 jalapeno, seeded (more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup lowfat sour cream

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
8-10 flour tortillas
chopped cilantro for garnish

Preheat oven to 375

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add green chiles, beans, water, chicken bouillon, cumin, and salt. Mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove cover and add chicken. Cook for 5 minutes. Set aside.

While chicken mixture is simmering, make the green chile sauce. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add onion and cook until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add flour and mix well. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in chicken broth until smooth. Cook over medium heat until it begins to boil. Add salt, green chiles, and jalapeno. (Add a little of the jalapeno at a time and taste. You can always add more heat but you can't take it out.) Cook for 1 minute until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in sour cream.

Spread 1/4 cup of the sauce onto the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture. Roll tortillas and place seamside down in the baking dish. Pour sauce over enchiladas and top with cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes. Garnish with cilantro.

Serves 6-8

Recipe adapted from Skinny Taste

Monday, October 20, 2014

How to Find a Good Deal on a Rental Car

A few weeks ago I did a post on flying for less money. If you're going to fly, you'll need a rental car and that can get pretty pricey. So I came up with some tips on finding a good deal on a rental car.

The most important thing you can do is shop around. Don't just go with the first car that you find. I have never found a good deal going directly through the rental car company. Instead, I look at different websites that compare prices with all of the different car rental companies and find the best deal for you. If you compare prices with all of these different websites, you'll find a great deal on a rental car. Here are some of my favorites:

Car Rental 8
I have always been able to find a good deal through Car Rental 8. Every time I've checked this website, the prices have always been really low, if not the lowest.

Book through your airline
The last two times we flew, I booked our rental car through Southwest Airlines. It was about the same price as Car Rental 8 but I decided to go through the airline to get the bonus points. For certain cars, the airline will offer points in their frequent flyer program. But you have to make sure the extra points are worth it. If you book a car that earns you 600 bonus points you have to figure out how much money you will actually get back and if that's the best deal you can find. 600 points may seem like it a lot but it's actually only worth about $10 so if you can find a car that's more than $10 cheaper, go with that instead. If you have a credit card through an airline, you may also earn double or triple points just for booking through the airline.That's in addition to the bonus points I already mentioned.

Check websites like Priceline, Expedia, and Travelocity
These websites are great for comparing the prices of different rental car companies; however, I've always found a better deal through Car Rental 8 or the airline.

Another great tip is to use your credit card points to help pay for your car. When we went to Florida in April, we had the Barclaycard credit card. After redeeming 80,000 points which cut the cost of our flight in half, the credit card company rewarded us with 10% of our points back. So that was $80 right there. By the time we went on our trip I had about 22,500 points to redeem which cut the cost of our rental car in half. We rented a mini-van in Orlando, Florida for 10 days for $450. After we used our points, I only payed $225. Not bad!

Here are some of the best travel reward credit cards:
Barclaycard Arrival 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar
Capitol One Ventures card 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar 
Chase Sapphire Preferred 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar on dining, 1 point per dollar on all other purchase
Southwest Rapid Rewards card 25,000 bonus points, 1 point per dollar (sometimes they offer 50,000 bonus points) 

Friday, October 10, 2014

White Chocolate Snickerdoodle Blondies

This is one of my favorite desserts. I always have all of the ingredients on hand so it's super easy to throw this together when I need to make a dessert. So delicious!

Printable Recipe

White Chocolate Snickerdoodle Blondies
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3 tsps vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x13 baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in salt, eggs, and vanilla until combined. Add flour and beat until combined. Stir in white chocolate chips. Press down evenly into prepared pan.

Mix together sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over bars. Bake for 28-33 minutes or until set and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Makes 24 bars

Recipe adapted from Life as a Lofthouse

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Creamy White Chicken Chili

This is my favorite soup recipe ever! I've made this so many times and I think my whole neighborhood has tried it. This recipe also freezes well. When I make this I usually make a double batch and freeze half of it. Then I can have this delicious soup on a busy night when I don't have time to make dinner.

Printable Recipe

Creamy White Chicken Chili
1 Tbsp olive oil 
1 medium onion, chopped
2 lb chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
4 cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
32 oz. chicken broth
2 (4 oz.) cans diced green chilies
3 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups sour cream
1 cup half and half

In a large pot, saute onion in olive oil. Add chicken, beans, chicken broth, green chilies, and spices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir in sour cream and half and half. Heat through. Serve with Fritos, if desired.

Serves 8

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How to Fly for Less Money

Our family loves to go on vacation and I am always planning our next one. We usually go on vacation to states that are close to Utah and we always drive because flying can get pretty expensive, especially with 4 kids. But we recently went to Disney World and I realized that flying can actually be affordable if you know how to plan it right.

1. Finding the right fare

Flights fluctuate like crazy! The prices of flights change every day, sometimes even throughout the day. About 6 months before your trip, start checking flights and comparing prices. This way, you can figure out what the average fare is and decide how much you're willing to pay. For example, when I started looking into flights for Orlando, I decided that a good rate was about $320 but I was hoping to find flights for under $300. I was willing to pay about $320 if I hadn't found a flight 1-2 months before our trip. About 3 1/2 months before our trip, I found a flight for $270 so I booked it. I knew that the chances of finding something cheaper were pretty slim and even if I did, I was very happy with the price I got. It was well under what I was hoping to pay.

The best time to book a flight is about 3-4 months before your trip. Once you get to this point, check flights every day, or even a few times a day. A good website to check is This website checks and compares most airlines to give you the best deal. On this website is a fare calendar that will tell you the lowest roundtrip price for each day in a month. If you click on it, it will take you directly to the airline to book the flight. Some airlines, like Southwest Airlines, are not included in this search so you'll have to check those airlines separately.

2. Sign up for airfare alerts.
Before you plan your next trip, sign up for Airfare Watchdog. This is such an awesome website! You sign up for the city that you want to fly to and they'll send you email updates when the flight prices go down. I signed up for cities that I want to watch like Orlando and a few others. This is how I found our flight to Orlando for $270.

Early this summer I got an email alert for a roundtrip flight from Salt Lake to San Diego for $118 per person. We weren't planning on going on a trip but this was such a good deal and we couldn't pass it up! So my husband and I decided to go to San Diego for a weekend. It was so much fun! I also recently helped my sister-in-law find roundtrip tickets from Salt Lake to Phoenix for $98. This website really is amazing.

3. Use credit card reward points.

I strongly recommend this, but I don't think it's for everyone. If you struggle to make ends meet and you think you might not be able to pay off the balance in full, then this probably isn't the best idea for you. You don't want to go into debt just to get a cheaper flight. If you know for sure that you're going to pay the balance in full every month, then the benefits from credit cards can be awesome. My husband was a little skeptical when I suggested this. He hates credit cards and hates debt! I told him to let me try this for a few months and if I didn't pay off the balance, he could cancel the credit card. It's been a year and a half and I haven't paid a dime in interest and I've made over $2000 in travel credit!

We had the Barclaycard and I really liked this card. With this card we earned 40,000 bonus points, which was equivalent to $400, and 2 points per every dollar that we spent using the card. I used my credit card for all of my purchases and paid the balance in full each month. So when we combined our awesome flight deal and our credit card points, we only spent $800 for our family of 6 to fly to Orlando. Not bad, right?

Here are some of the best travel reward credit cards:
Barclaycard Arrival 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar
Capitol One Ventures card 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar 
Chase Sapphire Preferred 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar on dining, 1 point per dollar on all other purchase
Southwest Rapid Rewards card 25,000 bonus points, 1 point per dollar (sometimes they offer 50,000 bonus points) 

Most of these cards waive the activation fee but charge a yearly fee after the first year. If you don't want to pay fees, there are other cards available but the rewards of those cards aren't as high. In my opinion, the rewards of the cards mentioned above outweigh the fees that you would pay.

4. Get creative with how you save.

Anyone can save money and there are many ways to cut back. Only you know your spending habits and how you can save. To save up for our flight, I donated plasma for a year. I'm a stay at home mom with no income of my own so this gave me such a huge sense of accomplishment to be able to pay for our flight.

Good luck planning your flight! I hope these tips help you to save money on your next trip. If you have any other tips on finding good deals on flights, leave a comment below.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Chunky Twix Cookies

I'm a sucker for anything with caramel. These cookies were a huge hit with my family. So delicious!

Chunky Twix Cookies
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups coarsely chopped Twix candy bars

Preheat oven to 325. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Slowly add dry ingredients. Stir in twix. Roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before removing from cookie sheet.

Makes about 4 dozen

Recipe adapted from Lovin' From the Oven

Monday, September 29, 2014

How To Earn Money By Shopping Online

I love to shop online. I do the majority of my shopping online because it's convenient and I don't have to leave my house or take my kids into a store. Love it! There are a lot of websites that offer cash back when you go to their website before you shop online. It just takes a little planning ahead.

This is one of my favorites. How it works is each store offers a certain percent cash back for any purchase you make at that store. The amount varies store by store and sometimes there are promos where they offer a higher percentage than normal. This especially happens during Christmas time. I once made a purchase at Toys R Us and got 8% cash back! It may not seem like a lot but it adds up fast. Just search for the store that you want to shop at. Click the link and it will take you directly to that store's website. Whatever percentage offered will automatically be added into your account after you make that purchase. They will send you a check in the mail for the amount that you earned that quarter. I have been using ebates since November and I have made about $75. I know that isn't a lot of money but I earned it by shopping so I think it's awesome! If you want to sign up, head over to the ebates website.

This is another one of my favorite sites and I use it daily. How it works is you earn swagbucks by doing various things like daily polls, searches, surveys, shopping online, playing games, watching videos, etc. Those swagbucks can be turned into gift cards for stores like Walmart, Target, Amazon, etc. You can even earn restaurant gift cards. You can spend as much or as little time as you want on this site. I usually just do the daily poll, online searches, and some shopping so I really don't spend too much time on this site. Last year, I saved up my swagbucks for a full year and I earned an $80 gift card. That definitely came in handy when I was buying Christmas gifts for my kids. Just head to the swagbucks website to sign up. It's easy to do and it's totally legit.

This website works a lot like Ebates. You shop online and each store offers a certain percent cash back. They also offer cash back on grocery purchases. The money you earn for shopping online or grocery purchases goes into an account and you can cash out or get a gift card whenever you're ready. Go to the SavingStar website to sign up.

Flight Rewards
Many airlines offer cash back on online purchases. If you have an account with an airline to earn flight miles, you can also earn more points by shopping online. I know Southwest and Delta Airlines do this but I'm sure there are many more airlines that offer this service. Just go to the airline's website and sign in to your rewards account and look for online shopping. This is a great way to get more points so you can fly for less.

***Make sure when you're shopping online that you go to one of these websites first so you can earn some extra cash. It's easy to omit this step and just go directly to the website when you want to shop but you won't earn any money that way. I usually check all of these sites to see which one is offering the highest percentage back and then I shop through that site. The money adds up fast! I like to save up all year and use the money I make towards my kids' Christmas presents. It makes it so much easier to buy them what they want for Christmas and stay in budget.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why I Started This Blog...

I consider myself to be an average stay-at-home mom. I'm not creative or crafty like most of the mommy bloggers out there. I hate crafting and I don't even know how to decorate my house! I also don't think I'm a very good writer. So why am I starting a blog?  Over the years I've discovered that I do have talents. I'm very good at planning and organizing my life so it doesn't feel like a circus. I'm not claiming to be perfect and I definitely have moments when my life feels totally chaotic. But I've learned a lot of ways to get through life so it doesn't feel chaotic and stressful. So that's why I created this blog. I want to share the things that I've learned so I can hopefully help others to feel like they can organize their life.

These are the things that I will talk about in this blog:

My family loves to travel and I am always planning our next vacation. I've learned some awesome tips over the years on how to plan vacations. In fact, many people have told me that I should start a vacation planning business. I don't even know how to begin to do that so I'm doing the next best thing, a blog.

Money Saving
I think of myself as the ultimate bargain shopper. There's nothing that brings me joy and satisfaction like finding a killer deal! In this blog, I'll share my money-saving tips to help others get the most for their dollar.

I have a passion for cooking and collecting recipes. I have a cooking blog, Cooking With Mandy, that I started 4 years ago. It's been fun to have this blog but I felt like it was time for a change. Rather than just posting recipes, I want to incorporate all of the other things that I've learned over the years. I'll post my new recipes in this blog and I'll also re-post some of my favorites.

Family Life
I have been married for 13 years and I'm a stay-at-home mom of 4 kids. I love my job! There is nowhere else in the world I'd rather be. But sometimes life can get pretty crazy! My kids are starting to get a little older and they're involved in a lot of activities. It's so hard to juggle homework, chores, dinner, and getting them to all of their activities. I'll share my tips on how to balance everything and not feel like you're going crazy.

I hope you enjoy this blog and I hope I can help others to feel like their life is less of a circus!
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