Friday, September 19, 2014

All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes Book Review

I picked out this book from my book review process because the main idea sounded interesting and who doesn't like a book about baking....especially with a cupcake on the cover.  YUM!  I was excited when it came in the mail and couldn't wait to start reading it.  I was stuck on my previous book and not making any progress and what pushed me through it was knowing that this book was waiting on the other side.  All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant was a great book to pick up especially as the weather started getting a little colder.  Of course, I love to read cookbooks so this was just an extension with a great recipe in the back to try!!

In this book, Kat Varland is living in the same small town she grew up in Bayou Bend, Louisiana.  At twenty-six years old, she is looking to get out from under her family's shadow being the preachers daughter and working in Aunt's bakery making only chocolate, vanilla and strawberry cupcakes.  She is looking to do lots more baking and expand her world to the big city and have a family.  Her best friend, Lucas Brannen, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off called Cupcake Combat which she loves to watch on TV.  She gets an email that she is accepted and her life changes forever.  She is off to the big city to try out some of her more "weird" cupcake recipes that she loves to hopefully land an internship at a famous bakery in New York City.  Find out what happens in the reality show and her life during the process.  You might be amazed and what happens!!

I really enjoyed the book.  It started off really quickly and got you interested in the characters and invested in what they were going to do.  I read the first four chapters the first night and had trouble putting it down to go to sleep.  I knew that I wasn't going to have any trouble making the deadline to publish my review but I was going to have trouble getting enough sleep if I couldn't put the book down.  I was on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next and I am already ready to read another book by this author!!  Who doesn't love to watch a good reality TV cooking show... I DO!!!  It was funny to read the behind the camera report in the book and imagine what you miss on the shows you watch on TV.  I hope that you check out this book at your local library or bookstore to see if it is something that you would also enjoy.

** I was provided this book from the publisher for my honest review of the book.  All of the opinions here are my own. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The First Phone Call from Heaven Book Review

I have always loves Mitch Albom's books so when I saw a new book was coming out.  I put it on my reserve list to get The First Phone Call from Heaven: A Novel by Mitch Albom.  It took a little bit to get to the top of the list but when I did, I was reading too many other books and had to wait.  I did finally make a little bit of time to read it and then I got a surprise few books in that I needed to review so it got put on the back burner again but I was excited to finally get to read it.

This book tells the story of a small town in Coldwater, Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from dead relatives and friends. Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out whether it is a miracle or a hoax. One reporter shows up to find out what is going on but the reports are so popular that many followers show up in town.  The town is crowded with lots of people wanting to hear from their own dead relatives and looking for inspiration from heaven. 

I did enjoy the book but not as much as his other books.  Most of his books are the ones that you put on the shelf and read over and over.  This book was hard for me to get into the beginning but it was well worth trying once I got into it.  I am not sure if it was just a busy time but I didn't make enough time to read this book in big chunks but I find if you don't sit down and get to know the characters.  It makes it hard to remember when there are so many characters in the book as well as the fact that the book goes back and forth in the middle of the chapters to different characters so you have to pay close attention.  The book was interesting with some emotional ups and down but I ended happy that I read it.  I hope that you enjoy it as well.  Make sure you check it out the next time you go to the library or bookstore.  Let me know if you have read it what you think!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Menu Plan Monday 9/15

Monday- Chicken Stir Fry with green beans on simple fried rice or white rice
Tuesday- Sausage Tortelloni with garlic peasant bread
Wednesday- Salsa Sloppy Joes with homemade rolls and fries
Thursday- Grilled Chicken with herb rice
Friday- ??
Saturday- Chicken Fried Rice/ Burgers and Brats
Sunday- Leftovers/Philly Cheese Steak Pasta with egg noodles

I am going to try the stir fry on Monday with frozen veggies and see how it works.  I have a lot of veggies and I want to use them up and I think that if I cook them frozen that we will still like them and they will be crispy and fresh.  I have a bunch of random things left in the freezer which I still haven't cleaned out so I am hoping to clean up a bunch with this week and try to get it cleaned out this month before the cold winter months hit.  My husband loves fried rice so I am hoping to use the leftover rice from Monday to make some for him with a bunch of veggies and chicken that I have around the house and in the freezer.  I hope that you have a yummy week planned too!!!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mid Month Budget Update

Can you believe that it is the middle of the month already?  I was hoping to make it to Harris Teeter to get some deals before this weekend so I could post it but I will put that in another post if I make it there.

Giant $1.67 

I used the end of my gift card ($0.70) that I had and I spent $1.67 out of pocket to get a little lunch meat for my husband's lunch.  I knew that this would only last a few days but there was very little on sale and I was looking for a better deal and waiting for my monthly credit from Giant to get my big shopping trip.

Giant $11.19

My son is really into ketchup and there was a coupon for Heinz which is our go to brand so I figured that I better go figure it out where to get it.  I stopped and Giant and the sign said that the big one was on sale for $2.50 so $2 after coupon.  I figured that it was a good deal since I sort of missed the stock up period of the summer BBQs so I grabbed three.  They didn't ring up on sale so the lady went to check the shelf and did an override on the price without any questions because the shelf price wasn't correct and was last week's sale.  I grabbed the ham to make sure that I had enough for my $10 credit if it was going to come off but I thought that they were going to be sending a gift card this month because of changes in the computer system but worth trying so that I didn't mess it up.  Plus the ham was on sale and there was a coupon.  I didn't get the credit but still got some savings.

Aldi's $32.35 + $4.60= $36.95

I decided to head to Aldi's but I made it there right around lunch so I got way too much!!  Although we needed lots.  I got turkey, stick margarine, tub margarine, baking soda, vegetable oil, shortening, saltine crackers, oyster crackers, pretzels, nacho cheese chips and salsa chips.  I grabbed a extra bag of pepperoni and container of cheese which I now know that we didn't need, oops!! I did also grab a container of garlic salt which we have not used before but it was like the one that my son likes so I figured it was worth a try for under $1.  Got a lime because they were on sale for $0.29 and they make a yummy dinner with lime tacos and something different then we normally make.  I went back in after putting everything in the car to get more potatoes after thinking about the menu plan for the month cause we like our potatoes!!  Not the end of the world that I got stuff we didn't need because we will use it but a little outside the plan since I try not to get things that we aren't going to use right away but that is what you get for going at lunch time!!

Not so bad for half of the month but I really need to get out and get a few more things like toilet paper, tissues and paper towels.  It is so hard for me to get a great deal on them anymore and I really need to settle for an okay deal soon so that I can get some in the cupboard before we totally run out because then we will be in trouble.

The great news is that I did get my $10 Giant Gift card in the mail so that I can use it for some other deals through the month so even though I already spent a bunch of money at Giant so far, there will be plenty of other deals that I will be able to take advantage of.  I have been baking and cooking a lot so we have had homemade cookies, cupcakes, and quick and yeast breads through the weeks so we have had a little bit of something fun using things that are already in the house.  I am hoping to make a few more things so that we have lots of food to carry us through the month without a bunch more out of pocket to leave room for the other things that we need to get but we will see how it goes.  How it your month going??

Total Retail $82.15
Total Savings $32.34
Total OOP $49.81

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy and More Book Review

The cover on this book alone made me want to get it and what is better than yummy cupcakes, cookies and candy!!  I don't know anything so I signed up to get this book and it came in the mail in just a little bit. Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy, and More by Editors of Food Network Magazine with it's great cover was calling to me so I picked it up knowing that I wouldn't have enough time to make anything from it for a little bit with the start of school coming quickly.

The beginning of the book starts with a table of contents with pictures.  It makes you know exactly what you are looking for because you are doing it with your eyes (or your stomach) instead of looking at the words.  It is an interesting trick to help you find the recipe that you are looking for quickly.  The pictures are amazing and have you wanting to eat the food off the page.  The beginning of some of the recipe have helpful tips like if you don't have buttermilk, use whole milk and yogurt or sour cream.  I never have buttermilk and probably won't head to the store to get it for one recipe so that is super helpful to know that I can make it anyway.  There are little tidbits at the beginning of each recipe to help you in some way with that recipe.

The table of contents is:

Cupcakes and Whoopie Pies
Cookies and Bars
Candy and Snacks
Pies and Crumbles
Fake-Out Cakes
Show-Off Cakes
Frozen Treats
Holiday Desserts

The only downside is that this only a recipe book and doesn't have any of the interesting discussions from the author because it is a group of articles and recipes put together by the editors.  It doesn't make it a bad cookbook only less interesting to read cover to cover.  Still with the great pictures, it will provide hours of entertainment even before you make it into the kitchen.  Some of the recipes a little too complicated for me to have on my list all the time because I am not regularly using the pastry bag or some of the more time consuming steps used in the recipes.  Other recipes are interesting and I might try the cupcake without the complicated frosting because my family doesn't like frosting as much as the cake.  There are some great ideas and places to start so here is hoping that I get to make one of the recipes soon.  The top of the list are chocolate chip cookies and brownies that I want to try first.  The ones that look yummy are the Apple Cider Doughnuts so I hope to make them sometime too!!!

**  I was provided this book from the publishers through Blogging for Books for my honest review.  All of the opinions here are my own.

Friday, September 12, 2014

It Had to Be You Book Review

I was super excited to have the second book in the series to start right after reading the first book.  I picked up It Had to Be You (Christiansen Family) by Susan May Warren right after finishing the other book.  It was as hard to put down as the first one so I finished it quickly making it the first book of September.  I hope that there is another book set to come out soon but I am sure that I am going to have to wait a little longer since I just got the third book on pre-release a little while ago!!!

This book followed Eden Christiansen who is the sister of Darek and Owen who has taken the sidelines in her own life to be a cheerleader for other people.  She spends most of her time looking after her younger brother, Owen, while he is starting his rookie year in the NHL.  Owen is acting out and Eden has turned her mothering into high gear trying to help him but it is only making Owen act out more.  At the same time, Eden is stuck in a job that she isn't happy with writing the obits for the paper.  She feels that writing about death is not really reporting.  She comes upon an unlikely friendship with Jace Jacobson, another NHL hockey player who has a bad reputation for violence in the game and with the women outside the game.  Eden learns about herself while searching for the family of a John Doe that they find in the hospital with Jace and you will never believe everything that happens in this book so you have to pick it up to believe it.

I really enjoyed this one because each book follows one of the Christiansen Family so you get to get a different view on every book.  This book just happened to follow one of the daughters so I thought that I could relate more to the situation that she got herself into because she gave up all of herself to help others in her family.  Although helping people is something great, there is a lot to be lost if it is the only thing that you do and never put yourself first.  She learns this the hard way but you will be amazed what comes out of it.  This was the third in the series that I read (even though it was the second book) and I really want to go back and read the one I read first again to see what I missed because I didn't know the characters.  Lucky for me that after finishing the book, there was the prequel "I Really Do Miss Your Smile" so I got a little more to read after finishing the book.  I can't wait for the next in the series to come out and I will be looking for it soon!!!  I hope that you check this out at your local library or bookstore and see what you think.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: My Stockpile of Baking Supplies

Are you already thinking, How does a cupboard of baking supplies save money?  I shopped for my baking supplies through the holidays last year. 

Why is that important?  Because the sales for baking supplies are on sale then!!!  I got at least 10 bags of unbleached flour at Wegman's for $0.99 each which are normally much more expensive (especially not at Wegman's because they can be up to $4).  My mom bought me a few extra bags of Aldi's flour which I had in the wings for when my Wegman's flour is all gone.  I got brown sugar and white sugar for super cheap.

 When the Gold Medal flour went on sale at the grocery store, I got the bread flour which was on sale for the same price as the regular flour at between $1.50 to $2.00.  There are very rarely coupons for flour but I did have a few in the last few years which I used with rain checks for the flour at the price that I wanted to pay!!!  Normally these are $4 or more per bag so getting them more then half price was amazing.  I got all that I could pile in the cupboards and was super excited to see how many I would use.  Did you see in that picture that I only have 3 left (they are the yellow bags in the back)?? 

I use the stores of baking supplies all year to make bread and treats.  I store my sugar in the container on the left and the flour in the container on the right to use all the time.  There is a little section in the middle that I use for the Crisco sticks that I got for $0.19.  There is also a box of dry powder milk.  I also have another container of bread flour which is too tall so I keep it on the counter.

Can you believe that I have used over 12 bags of flour and 10 bags of bread flour already and it hasn't been a year??  I can't keep track of the sugar count because I got them every time they went on sale and the number went up and down a little more but I know I used a lot of them too!!  I might have a baking problem!!!

Why am I telling you this? Because the sales are starting soon for the holiday baking season so you can make your own baking stockpile.  It is a great time to stock up on a little bit of baking items to use through the year when they hit the rock bottom prices.  It will save lots of money because every time you pull out a bag of flour you already saved $3 because you don't have to pay the current shelf price.

Good luck and happy shopping!!!