I've been tagged by one of my favorite hound-pals over at centralillinoisian - Life is Hard - Just Keep Swimming. Ok, so the challenge: tell random 7 things about myself.

1. I love the smell of coffee, love the flavor of coffee....just don't like to drink coffee. I'm sure that's beyond odd, but maybe that's part of my charm. P.S. absolutely love Vanilla Cappuccino Bars!

2. I love to read - will read nearly anything....I might draw the line at Dickinson, but that's because everytime my DSis and I have tried to read the same book at the same time, she finishes first! One day I'll have some quiet time, re-read Tale of 2 Cities, because it's one of the books I've struggled through and still remember (many years after the fact).

3. When no-one is in the car with me, I love to blast 80's tunes, country, anything I can sing to loudly. Very loudly....then I start laughing at how ridiculous I must sound/look. It's a mood picker-upper for me.

4. I can never go anywhere without...COOP. COOP is an invention to keep my coupons organized. I feel naked leaving the house without it.

5. I don't like.....bugs. I keep telling myself every spring that there really aren't that many bugs in the ground, otherwise I'd never get my mini-garden in. This year I grew tomatoes.....more than 20 plants of them. That leads me to #6-

6. My favorite meal is spaghetti. You'd think I was Italian with all the pasta I eat. I've got some sauce, a Creamy Marinara, simmering for dinner right now. I'm hoping to learn how to make a good Puttanesca Sauce next.

7. I've just discovered..... the joys of walking in the grass barefoot. growing up, it wasn't allowed (bad neighborhood, and neighbors would leave rusty nails, shattered bottles, etc. everywhere...even toss them in our yard.) I felt so decadent walking around in the perfectly manicured grass at the Chicago Botanical Gardens without my sandals on. It was my favorite part of that outing! I'm also a glutton for tourist-y things.
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Meijer's has Jello on sale starting Thursday 5/$3 or $.60 each. They're also offering a coupon online (through mealbox) for $1.50 off any 2 Jello items, and there's also a Catalina coupon to print with it. Being discreet, (ha!) I've printed 20 of those coupons. I want to stock up on Catalinas to help pay for Thanksgiving dinner. (I may be a little crazy, but at least I have a plan.)
The plan is to buy 3 boxes of Jello on sale for $1.80 -$1.50 Q = $.30 OOP and a $2 OYNO Q prints out! For $1.70 profit - love it!
To add in some variety, I'll see how low the OOP is on the Taco Bell Salsa, which also has a $1.50 Q.
To change it up, there are Q's for $2 off any 2 Kraft Mayo and Miracle Whip, which are on sale....2 for $4. That equals $1 for me! I'm lovin' it!
I try to make sure I don't run too many identical transactions, even though I use self-checkout. I still miss the days of free pasta. I loved loading 26 boxes of pasta into my cart along with a few miscellaneous items and paying for my order with spare change. Ah, the good ol' days...
4-6 lbs. chicken, bone-in works best (dark or white meat)
3-4 cloves garlic
1/4 medium onion

Put chicken, onion, and garlic into crockpot, cover with water and cook until meat starts to fall off the bone. (About 6-8 hours on low).
Drain off water into large bowl (and save to use in place of store bought chicken stock/broth), remove skin and bones. With 2 forks, gently pull the chicken apart.

Meal Ideas:

Add BBQ Sauce and serve as Pulled Chicken (great for sammies).
Add in some tomato sauce, garlic salt, onion powder, and taco seasoning for Chicken Tacos, Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Quesadillas, and Chicken Burritos.
Serve over pasta.
Mix with cooked, diced potatoes as a hash
Use in place of lunchmeat
Add to broth, with noodles and veggies for homemade chicken noodle soup
Add into boxed pastas/rices/potatoes, for an entree on a side-dish budget!
Make mashed potatoes, make packaged gravy mix and add in chicken. Serve chicken in gravy over potatoes.
Makes a great pizza topping.

This freezes very well, and helps out in a pinch when you didn't plan dinner or forgot to thaw something. Instead of buying pricey cans of chicken breast meat, this is a great, cheap substitution.
1 box dark chocolate or german chocolate cake mix
2 eggs, minus one yolk
1/3 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 C. milk
1 tsp. rum extract
1/2 tsp. each cinnamon and almond extract
1/4 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 C. white chocolate chips
1/2 C. mini-chocolate chips
1 C. sweetened flaked coconut (optional)
1/4 C. macadamian nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Grease 13x9" baking dish.
Mix well all ingredients, spread evenly into pan. Top with additional coconut and white chocolate chips, if desired.
Bake for 25 to 27 minutes.
Cool and cut.
This recipe is great if you're on a tight budget, and want the taste of lasagne, but not too heavy of a meal. Feel free to scale back the portions - I make this once or twice a year (several pans at a time) and freeze it. It's a healthier take on frozen food - much more nutritious, too!

2 boxes lasagne noodles, cooked and drained, then rinsed in cold water
32 oz. container low-fat cottage cheese
1 C. bread crumbs
8 oz. can parmesan
6-8 quarts spaghetti sauce or 4-5 jars sauce
2 lbs. ground turkey, seasoned with garlic and onion, and browned, drained, added to sauce
1 lb. fresh mushrooms - chopped/sliced, sauteed with ground turkey
*optional 1 medium red bell pepper added to meat mixture, very finely chopped
3-5 bags 8 oz. mozzarella or Italian blend cheese, shredded

Mix cottage cheese with bread crumbs, 1/2 C. parmesan, and 1 T. basil.
In crockpot, add spaghetti sauce, browned ground turkey, mushrooms, red bell pepper. Add garlic and basil to taste. Cook on high for 2 hours or til bubbly.

In 13x9" baking dish, layer noodles, sauce, mozzarella, cottage cheese mixture, repeat this once, and top with mozzarella and parmesan.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
To freeze - once cooled, cover tightly and place levelly in freezer. Partially thaw before cooking - reheat will take 1 hour 20 minutes on 375 in oven.
DH & I just got back from our anniversary trip to Milwaukee. For a smallish city, it has some amazing attractions and great shopping stops for foodies. First up, the Milwaukee Public Market: an indoor food market with specialty wines, cheeses, meats, a spice shop, 2 bakeries, organic produce, and several different lunch counters. Thinking ahead to the holidays, I picked up some specialty cheeses (to put out for hors d'oeuvres) and grabbed a small sack of cookies. Next we were off to the Spice House. There I added Indonesian Cinnamon and some fancy toasted onion salt to my spice collection. Next we headed across the street to Usingers Sausage, they've been in business in the same location for over 100 years! An amazing find - chicken sausage with tequila and black bean - $.99 pkg. (20 oz. pkg). Along with BOGOF on the some of their other sausages, we returned home with 5 packages of chicken sausages and brats for less than $8.50!! On our return trip home, we stopped at JellyBelly and bought 5 bags of JellyFlops (the misshapen beans) for $27. Not a bad hounding - some of the jellybeans will go as stocking stuffers for nephews, and for the children of some friends, and split the bags with DM - she's a jellybelly fanatic, too.
1.5 lbs. ground turkey, browned with 1 T. each garlic and onion, 1 tsp. cumin
8 oz. shredded cheese (I use cheddar, Mexican blend, or whatever's in the fridge)
1-2 cans (8-10 oz.) enchilada sauce (or 16 oz can tomato sauce with 1/2 tsp. chili powder, dash of cayenne, 1/4 tsp. onion salt, and 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)
15-20 corn tortillas

Warm tortillas in microwave or on griddle pan until soft. Preheat oven to 375.
Dip each tortilla (both sides) in enchilada sauce. Place one heaping spoonful of ground turkey in tortilla, roll up and place seam side down on greased, 13x9" baking dish. Repeat until you run out of ingredients or someone whines, "I'm hungry." (Typically this is me whining.)
Bake 10-12 minutes or til cheese is melted.
Serve with beans, Mexican rice, shredded lettuce, and sour cream.

To make the meat stretch, you can add favorite veggies (finely diced) while browning the meat. I have used mushrooms, red bell peppers, sweet banana peppers, celery, and onion. You can also make this ahead of time and pop in oven for a reheat when you're running short on time. This can also be frozen - make in an aluminum pan, cover tightly. You can store this up to 1 month (if someone doesn't eat it first.)
3 cans (14.5 oz.) diced Italian style tomatoes
2 cans (6 oz). tomato paste
2 cans tomato sauce (8 oz.)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup (condensed)
1 (4 oz.) can mushrooms
8 oz. light sour cream
1/2 small red pepper - finely chopped
2 T. basil
1/4 tsp. fennel seed
1/2 tsp. onion salt
1 1/2 T. dry minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

Add all ingredients to crockpot. Heat on high for 1 1/2 hours. Turn heat down to low, cook additional 2-3 hours. Let stand 30 minutes before serving. (Sauce will thicken upon standing.)
Serve over pasta, over meatballs (for sandwich), or use as pizza sauce.
Servings = 10-12
1 box classic white cake mix
2 eggs
1/4 C. unsweetened applesauce
1/3 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. apple juice or cider
2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. rum extract
1/2 tsp. apple pie spice
1/2 C. sliced almonds
2 medium apples (overripe work great), finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 13x9" baking dish.
Mix well all ingredients. Pour into prepared baking dish.
Top with additional almonds, if desired.
Bake for 25-28 minutes. (Shorter for metal pan, longer for glass or ceramic dish).
Cool and cut.

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