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March 23, 2012

Dinner for One or Tempting Appetizer Treat! Original Recipe

I tend to get "chefy" on my Dinner for One nights.  With my husband's weekend work schedule and my 4 year old off at Grandma's, it was just the baby and I for dinner on a Friday night.

The benefit of a Dinner for One night is that there is no need for satisfying picky tastes or the time-crunch of a hungry family with immediate wants.  I can leisurely construct something that I desire, regardless of how long it might take or how esoteric the tastes.  I can experiment within the confines of available ingredients (a challenge I've come to enjoy) without the fear of disappointing the hungry masses.  I find I work my best "leftover magic" in these situations;  perhaps out of curiosity or boredom, I feel laid back in my creative endeavor, free to fail.

It is under these circumstances I have stumbled upon some really excellent combinations that I otherwise would not have tried.  I have added to my entertaining or family meal lexicon with successes, and chalked plenty up to "not gonna do that again" without the snickering of my husband.

Tonight was such a night, and I'm pleased to report a successful experiment!

I started out with the idea to bake some tortilla chips.  I've made wonderful tortilla chips by deep frying whole wheat tortillas cut into triangles, but with an eye towards more healthful choices, we no longer possess the ubiquitous and permanently fish-scented "Fry Daddy."  So I baked them, unsure of what exactly would happen.  I brushed two 8-inch tortillas with olive oil, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, and rosemary (hint: if you put these ingredients into an oven-safe ramekin whilst the oven preheats, the rosemary will better infuse into the oil.  I find rosemary needs a slight heating to best display its flavor).  Into a 425-degree oven these tortillas went on a pre-heated pizza stone for 8 minutes.

What emerged was a rustic-looking treat: perfectly browned, crispy, with a random spray of crisped air pocket bubbles.  The aroma of the rosemary escaped the confines of the oven with gusto, and suddenly my quest for tortilla chips evolved into a more sophisticated pursuit.  I couldn't waste these perfectly baked tortillas on just snacking with salsa.  The following recipe is the result:

Preheat the oven to 425-degrees.  If using a pizza stone (highly recommended) that should be pre-heating as well.

Ingredients


Baked tortillas & asparagus:

2 8-inch tortillas
5-6 asparagus spears, washed & trimmed, then cut in half
Olive oil
sea salt
fresh cracked pepper, or just black pepper
dried rosemary

"Crab" dip:

cream cheese
parmesan cheese, fresh grated preferred
crab meat, or imitation crab (as I used)

1.  Mix about 2-3 Tbsp olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and rosemary to taste into an oven-safe ramekin and set on pizza stone while oven preheats for several minutes.  When the oil is warm, brush on tortillas lightly, both sides.  Be sure to evenly distribute the seasonings. Add the excess oil & seasonings to a saute pan.

2.  Set tortillas on pizza stone and set timer for 8 minutes.  Add a minute or two at a time until desired level of crispness, a good golden brown in most places;  air bubbles are OK.

3.  Meanwhile, gently saute the asparagus in the leftover olive oil & seasoning mixture.  Saute on low to medium just until al dente.  Drain excess oil and allow to cool.

4.  To a food processor add a serving spoonful of cream cheese, 2-3 strips of imitation crab (or crabmeat), and parmesan cheese to taste.  Add just a little olive oil (from the saute pan is fine) for a creamier consistency.  Puree until well-mixed but chunks of crab are still visible.

5.  Break baked tortillas into quarters (it's ok that these won't be perfect quarters due to the air bubbles, that's OK and adds to the rustic feel of this recipe), spoon crab dip mixture onto tortilla piece and top with 2-3 pieces of asparagus.

I served these with a few kalamata olives on the side: their saltiness offsets the sweetness in the cream cheese nicely.  These would make perfect appetizers because the serving temperature is room temperature for everything but the dip which should still be slightly cool.  They also make a tasty snack or Dinner for One pampering.


Magazine Deal Update

Recently, I shared some of my favorite ways to feed a bourgeoning magazine habit on the cheap (read the related blog post here).  Today I scored a year of Popular Science for $2!  Here's how:

Visit www.magazines.com and register for an account with your email address.  Don't place an order yet! Browse around to get an idea of what you might like, add something to your cart then leave the site.

I can't promise you that this will happen to you, but often to entice browsers into becoming buyers, sites like these email you within a few days to offer you something.  Magazines.com has been sending $5 "gift cards" via email to those on their email list.

Head over to www.retailmenot.com to check out the best coupon code for the magazine you want.  Through March you can use the code MARCHDEAL to get $5 off any one of more than 250 titles.  Magazines.com will let you combine coupon codes with gift cards, so...

There may be other ways you can get gift card codes:  try googling for them or digging deeper into RetailMeNot.  Not every code/card code you find may work, but if you're patient, for a little research, you can walk away with a year subscription to something you like or would like to try for less than the price of a single issue!

March 11, 2012

Toffee Bliss: Blended Vodka Recipe

My husband bought one of those single-serve beverage blender devices which has four ice cream sundae-sized cups which screw onto the blender unit so you can mix all the ingredients, blend, then swap the top to the drinking cup lid with a straw hole.  It's great for making smoothies and so much less clean up work!

But he had also brought home Pinnacle Cake Vodka a few weeks ago (yup still on this bottle from the last recipe I posted, it's wonderful, I just don't drink a lot).   I happened upon a Heath bar I had stowed away in the freezer which I was pleasantly surprised to re-discover.  I normally savor these as a side dish to a cup of delicious coffee, but I spied the Pinnacle in the fridge and began to feel mischievous.

The result of indecisive fridge shopping is one recipe for pure Toffee Bliss!

Make yours!

To a blender add:

Pinnacle Cake flavored vodka (amount to taste)
One Heath bar or some Heath crunch baking pieces
A handful of ice
A cup of vanilla almond milk

Blend and serve!  So easy and delicious!

March 10, 2012

Spring Forward? Not without some java!

Daylight savings time draws to a end overnight (2am Sunday morning, to be precise) and I'm betting you aren't as happy to "spring forward" as you were to "fall back."  Me neither.  So while I'm hiking across town for a 10 a.m. art lesson that will feel like 9 a.m (for me and my student) I know I'll be swinging through a drive-thru (or two... yeah, my coffee addiction is that bad!) for some FakeAwake in a cup.

Good news:  Caribou is having another promo (I'm still in love with them for their buy-one-get-one Leap Day sale just a little while ago) so you can score your caffeine fix on the cheap.  Bad news: you've still gotta' get up an hour earlier if you have anything scheduled.


Print the pic or visit the link and you're good to go!

Link:  http://view.cariboucoffee-email.com/?j=fe6115747660007a7117&m=fef010797c640d&ls=fdeb1c70726d0c7877167573&l=fe8c1570726c007a7d&s=fe261c727c62027c741173&jb=ffcf14&ju=fe29157477600074761c73

Save a Lot, Read a Lot: how I feed my magazine habit on the cheap.

I used to love perusing magazines when I was younger, and then later it became an excellent time-kill for those hours spent in the library when I was working a bizzaro split shift too far away to drive back home in the middle. I always balked at actually purchasing subscriptions, however, because they seemed vastly over-priced for increasingly mediocre content with ever-encroaching advertisements.

I've never been a fan of fashion magazines, for example, because when you look at them they're 90% advertising and what little isn't paid advertising is telling you to buy more stuff anyway.  I also get annoyed that the "women's interest" section of the magazine stand is crammed full of cheap gossip rags, celebrity worship, and "publications" devoted to hair, clothes, and buying more and more stuff.  Note how they don't believe women are interested in in current events, arts, or science.  That has always ruffled my feathers.  Why do we have to be so label-happy?  I'm a woman.  I'm happy to look through Reason (a libertarian-oriented current events & political themed publication), The Economist, Popular Science and flip through the latest Real Simple or Ladies' Home Journal.  But I digress.

My business requires that I be at least somewhat aware of what is "trending" in the fashion world: color palates (so the jewelry & accessories I make match the outfits you're buying right now) as well as general fashion trends (are my big, bold & complicated pieces going to be popular right now? Or are we on a more minimalist trend?).  Because I don't watch TV (until it comes out on Netflix, that is) checking out an array of magazines satisfies my need to collect this information about what's trending. But still there is the price problem.

If you want to keep tabs on a variety of subjects or market conditions, or are just addicted to that newly-printed magazine feel, here are some tips from my experience.  I have attained many magazine subscriptions for free to $5 or less.  You just have to do some looking around.

* You can always get plenty of magazines for free at your library.  You can read the current issue there or check out the past issues.  The downside:  you have to deal with everyone else's germs or spillage, you can't rip out pages, you have to go there to get it and take it back.  The upside: you can't beat the price, you can always jot down info that you wanted (websites, recipes, etc.), and you can usually get at least part of the article on their website.

*You can get the digital versions of many magazines for free too, either at the computer or for your mobile device or eReader.  Some publications will offer the digital version at their website almost fully, while others have limited free content and charge for accessing the full publication electronically.

*There are virtually unlimited suppliers of discount subscriptions for the physical versions.  Here are just a few:

http://www.valuemags.com/home/index.asp
https://www.discountpress.com/
http://www.discountmags.com/

While I don't particularly "endorse" any of these sites, I have placed orders with them.  They will all have periodic specials and promos BUT before you place an order, check to see if they have an additional coupon code you can use. My go-to source for online coupon codes is Retail Me Not.  Not only can you search for whatever website you're shopping and see a list of available codes, but you can see the "success" rate for each code and other user-submitted info.  You don't have to register to use the service, which is free.  You can register, however, and provide feedback on codes you've tried or submit your own codes when you get them.

*Subscribe to some bloggers who run coupon and savings-oriented sites.  Many will send an email summary of all their postings so you don't have to visit the blog unless something pops out at you.  Consider subscribing to a few so you get some varied content.  Unless you're crazy into coupon-ing most of the content will probably not excite you, as it consists of much "hey go here to print this AWESOME 50-cent off coupon for hot dogs HERE!!!" and you can roll your eyes and skip that entry because you would never consider a 50-cent off coupon for hot dogs to be "awe-inspiring,"

But then occasionally they'll throw you a bone you actually want to chew--because they're also subscribers to other deal-alert networks, they always seem to be aware of every blessed freebie out there.  It's their business.  It's how they generate so much darn traffic to their blogs.  So when free magazine subscriptions are available to things you actually want to read, or maybe just curious about (as in, I wouldn't pay money for Reader's Digest, but they can give it to me free and I'll check it out) or when those discount sites have super-bargains.

Just this week I scored two full-length albums via digital download at Amazon for a quarter each, a couple free eBooks I thought I might like, and year's subscription to Popular Science for $5.50--all from alerts in these daily summaries.

You have to learn to self-filter the spammy parts of it-- the whole point of being frugal is saving money on things you were actually going to buy, not hopping on every "deal" just because it's a "deal."  Happy hunting, readers!



photo credit:  http://www.societyofrobots.com/robot_ERP.shtml