Snacks!

I’ve shopped with Kroger grocery stores for many years. They have been a top contender in affordable offerings for a long time, and are imporving their ability to feed individuals on a budget. For a lot of folks, part of that budget is snacks, whether for between meals fulfillment, or for presentation at gatherings.

From the website:

“Kroger Brand: Where Awesome Meets Affordable
Kroger Brand strives to constantly outdo itself. That means you’ll find a wide variety of high-quality products, at great prices to boot! The experts behind the scenes are constantly innovating to bring you even more unique bites and delicious drinks, as well as convenient household staples.”

On this set of missions, Kroger is repeatedly using the word ‘awesome’ and with good reason.

Awesome (adjective): extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration; extremely good or excellent

Synonyms: breathtaking, awe-inspiring, magnificent, wonderful
Mission Level 1: Make Snack Time Awesome
IMG_4077This level of the mission offered up pizza rolls, chocolate chip cookies, trail mix, and some other goodies.

DSC_0140The cookies were an easy snack! I loaded them up with Nutella to make sandwich cookies. Served with cold milk, they went really fast.

 

 

IMG_4073The Kroger Brand Pizza Rolls have made it into our kitchen’s regular rotation for both snacks and quick meals. We found that leftover red sauce spread over the rolls and topped with shredded Italian cheeses makes a great, if a little messy, alternative to pasta! We also tried them with chili and cheese. We enjoy the results immensely!

 
Mission Level 2: Make Game Day Awesome
DSC_0967This mission level gave us a pub mix, a koozie, and some coupon based freebies like the seltzer water I love so much.

We put all of it to great snacking use.
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Mission Level 3: Make Halloween Awesome
DSC_0966When is Halloween not awesome? When there are no treats! This mission sent us goodies such as pumpkin carving stencils, pretzels, gummi worms, and a trick or treat bag. Sadly I was unable to put together the projects I wanted to try out, but we did some other awesome things for the spookiest night of the year.

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Here’s hoping this blog gives you some nifty snacking ideas not only for further along this season (Thanksgiving, Winter holidays, Superbowl, etc.), but for a long time to come.

— Ann Cathey

#WhereAwesomeMeetsAffordable #MyMagazineSharing #FreeSamp

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Fall Book Sale! – Conroe TX

The Library Friends of Conroe is a volunteer organization benefiting the Montgomery County Library System. Among the many projects they organize and run, they host a twice yearly Book Sale at the Central Library in Conroe, Texas. All of the books, dvds, VHS tapes, puzzles, music cds and other goodies available at the Book Sale have been donated by members of the community in the hopes that they will recirculate and bring needed funds to the Library.

If you have never been to one of the extravaganzas, it is an experience. There are three large rooms and an entire hallway filled with tables that are covered in books of all types. I have been able to find the most remarkable cookbooks dating back into the 40’s at these tables, as well a books I’ve been wanting to read, and am always willing to go back and check for more.

Beginning on Thursday, October 4th, from 4:30pm to 8:00pm, is First Choice Night. There is no entry free and everyone is welcome. This is the first view of the items for sale and your chance not only to preview, but to make some awesome purchases for your own reading enjoyment and edification.

Continuing on Friday,October 5th, 9:00am to 4:30pm, and Saturday, October 6th, 9:00am to 3:00pm, the sale continues in all sale areas.

The famous $2 Bag Sale is on Saturday from 9:00am to 12:30pm in the large meeting room only. The Library Friends will provide you with a bag that you are allowed to pile as many books into as you wish – for only $2. All other areas remain at regular price.

Join us at 104 I-45 North, Conroe, Texas 77301, October 4-6, for a Texas-sized Book Sale!

If you happen to miss the Fall Book Sale this year, remember that here is another one in the Spring, and Vicki’s Book Nook is always available at the Central Library, and open whenever the library is.

For more information, please call 936-788-3888 or email lov2read@consolidated.net. You may also visit the MCLS website.

Clean and gently used donations are accepted all year at Vicki’s Book Nook at the Central Library.

–Ann Cathey

Hitting the Road with Kroger Fuel Points

Put simply, it’s all about saving money. Whether you use coupons to shop, or other savings programs, they all add up to not spending as much as you might otherwise.

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Hitting the open road on vacation!

One of those ways to save, if you shop at the Kroger family of stores, is to sign up for and use their fuel rewards program. It’s as easy to do as doing your normal shopping. Every time you buy something, your points begin to add up. Use your Shopper’s card or enter your alternate ID at checkout, and it’s done. Every single time.

From the website:

FUEL POINTS 101

How it Works
When you shop at a Kroger Co. Family Store and use your Shopper’s Card, you’ll earn 1 fuel point for every $1 you spend.*  Once you’re at the pump, simply scan your Shopper’s Card or enter your Alternate ID, then choose to redeem your available fuel discount. You can also redeem your fuel points at one of our redemption partners.*

When Do They Expire?
Fuel points earned in the current month will expire at the end of the next month. However, fuel points do not combine across months. Each month is a separate accumulation period. Fuel points earned in separate months cannot be combined in the same transaction. You’ll always be offered your highest unredeemed discount first.

How Can I Keep Track of My Points?
With the “My Account” feature in your digital account, you can see how many fuel points you’ve accumulated, how many you’ve redeemed, how you earned them, when they expire and more. You can also see your previous month’s fuel points. You can also track your fuel points with the Mobile App!

*Restrictions apply. Not valid in LA or MO. Offer, discount and redemption locations vary by market. See store or visit our FAQ page to learn more about the program at your store.

My family and a lot of my friends shop at Kroger, in part for the fuel rewards. In this day and age, every little bit helps.

We recently went on vacation in Colorado, and found one of the Kroger family of stores there, as well as at home in Texas. Our fuel account was active in both states, and helped up travel that little bit further as we explored Red Rocks Park and so many other scenic spots and interesting eateries.

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Lone Ponderosa pine at Red Rocks Park, Colorado.

— Ann Cathey

#KrogerCo #FuelPointsForDays #Ad #MyMagazineSharing

From Frozen to Fabulous!

Frozen foods have been around since the 1920’s, believe it or not. In this modern day, they are truly a far cry from their humble, vegetable, beginnings with Clarence Birdseye and his contemporaries. Just about any type or style of food can now be found in the freezer section of your local grocery. How you prepare them is plainly laid out on the package, but how you serve them can be another matter all together.

Let us take the simple burrito. While it can merely be heated and eaten, it can also be so much more. Lay out thawed burritos in a baking dish and cover them with chili and cheese, then bake until everything is heated through and the cheese is all melty. Serve up with freshly sliced avocado, sour cream, salsa or pico de gallo, and fresh greens for a more TexMex flair that feeds the soul as well as the stomach.

Have a taste for lasagne? Pick one up for supper tonight, but be sure to grab some extra mozzarella, grated dry cheese such as asiago or parmesan, pesto, and fresh basil. Cook the lasagne as directed, but when the cover comes off to allow the top cheese to melt and brown, smear on some pesto and sprinkle on the extra cheese before popping back in the oven for that last five or ten minutes. Serve with a fresh side salad featuring strips of fresh basil, and a warm and crusty garlic bread.

Pretty much everyone is aware of pigs in a blanket, or klobásníks. Sausage wrapped in a bit of dough and baked up for a hand sandwich. Use croissant pastry and fill it with sausage, cheese, cheese sticks, sliced chicken, or even sliced steak sauteed with onions and peppers for that Philly take.

Eggs are another ubequtious ingredient that many overlook. Crack some fresh eggs onto a frozen pizza before cooking for a sunny side up surprise. Add a fried egg to a cheeseburger, or make it scrambled if you prefer. Turn breakfast into dinner or dinner into breakfast!

Coffee is another kitchen wonder. If you have some leftover from the beginning of your day, use it to end your day in a delightful way. Put a scoop or two of ice cream into a dish or cup, then pour the cold coffee over it to make an Italian cafe classic – an affogato. Top with sliced almonds, whipped cream, even sprinkles to customize your dessert or evening sweet tooth offering.

Give these ideas a try, or better yet, try out your own. Let us know what you come up with so we can give your ideas a whirl in our own kitchen, too.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

Spaghetti Squash and Sausage

I originally stumbled across this recipe at the Jimmy Dean website, and after playing with it, figured I would share my results since I took photos of the process and all. This recipe may be served “in a boat” (in the squash hull) or simply cooked up in a casserole dish. It’s all about presentation and preference.

The dish features flavors and colors redolent of the fall harvest, and is a great way to kick off the season of cooling temperatures and the glorious autumnal colors of nature.

 

SPAGHETTI SQUASH AND SAUSAGE
Prep time: 45minutes
Bake time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:
1 pound pork sausage

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Shredded Smoked Gouda

1 spaghetti squash
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup smoked Gouda, shredded
1 med or small onion, sliced thin
1 tbsp butter
1 lemon, halved
2 cups baby leaf spinach
Cooking spray – I prefer olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

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Halved Lemon

 

 

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

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Removing cooked squash from hull.

Render your squash by slicing in half longways, removing the seeds, and applying olive oil to all the exposed meat surfaces. Roast or microwave until soft. Allow the squash to cool before attempting to handle it. Using a fork or large spoon, scrape the meat out into a bowl and allow it to rest. Be careful to keep the hulls intact. Those may be set aside for later use if desired.

 

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Meat and onion cooked in microwave rather than skillet.

Use cooking spray on a large skillet. Add onions and garlic and saute until soft and slightly caramelized. Break up the sausage into the skillet with the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is mostly done. Add butter and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. This may also be rendered in a microwave rather than on a stove top, but be sure to use a large microwave safe bowl.

 

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If microwaving, as shown, layer cheese, spinach and squash over meat so that the cheese and spinach are heated between the meat and squash. This will cause nice wilting.

Add the spaghetti squash, spinach, and desired salt and pepper. Cook while stirring occasionally until the squash is nicely broken up and the spinach has begun to wilt. Add the juice from the other half of the lemon, half of the grated cheese, and stir it all up.

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Mix it up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are using the squash hulls, load them with the sausage mixture. If you are using a casserole dish, spray it with you preference of cooking sprays, then fill it up.

Top evenly with remaining cheese and bake at 375ºF until cheese is melted and just beginning to brown and dish is heated through, about 15-20 minutes.

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Allow to rest.

 

Allow to rest for five minutes before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Single serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not the original recipe, but one that I fiddled with as I am wont to do. The original called for a panko-based topping, and no gooey cheese. It’s probably healthier that way, but in my house cheese is pretty much a necessity in just about everything.

There are lots of variations that spring to mind for this recipe. Using turkey sausage instead of pork, using kale or another leafy green with or in place of the spinach, and adding other spices to the mix all sparked right off. Toppings might be as simple as a sprinkle of parmesan, or bacon crumbles, or freshly diced parsley or chopped chives. Basing the dish on curry and using a ground meat rather than a pre-spiced sausage sounds tasty, as does a Cajun version.

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The big serving!

As with all the recipes I post, have fun with it! Try it out, twist it up and make it your own.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

 

Smoky Bacon Shortbread

Last year at Comicpalooza, I was honored to meet author Michelle Muenzler. In addition to being a great writer and mentor, she makes seriously awesome cookies. In fact, on the con circuit, she’s known as The Cookie Lady, as she always has cookies in tow.

Ms. Muenzler is kind enough to share her recipes on her website, and I have had great success with a few of them. My favorite, though, is her recipe for Earl Grey shortbread. Now, I’ve never actually made Earl Grey shortbread. I don’t care for Earl Grey tea, and as that’s the major flavoring agent, it didn’t seem like a wise choice. However, there are many, many teas that I do enjoy, and I’ve experimented with a few with great results.

My latest experiment with the Earl Grey shortbread recipe is this one: Smoky Bacon Shortbread. I subbed Tea Punk Tea’s Winter Smoke tea for the Earl Grey and added in some chopped candied bacon. Delicious! Below is the recipe, based on the one at Michelle’s website: http://www.michellemuenzler.com.

For candied bacon:

  • 1 1/2 strips of bacon
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp water

For shortbread:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp loose Winter Smoke tea
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 strips of bacon, candied and finely chopped

Prepare candied bacon

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place bacon strips on rack over a lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.
  3. Flip bacon over. Baste with a mixture of 1 1/2 Tbsp of brown sugar and enough water to create a thick liquid.
  4. Return to oven for another 15 minutes or until bacon acquires preferred level of doneness.)

Prepare dough

  1. Cream together butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Add flour, tea, and salt. Mix until thoroughly combined.
  2. Chop bacon (I use a Ninja food processer) and stir into dough.
  3. Roll dough into logs (1″ thick or so). I do this on waxed paper or a silicon baking max sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or the waxed paper and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375F.
  5. Slice logs into thin disks and place on nonstick baking sheets or parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until edges begin to brown, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.

The Winter Smoke tea used here is available from the lovely people at: https://www.teapunkteas.com/store/c2/Black_Teas.html

 

 

Red, White and BBQ,

Being a member of MyMagazine™ Sharing Network has gotten me to try a lot of products that I might otherwise have let slip by. These products are normaly in the form of free samples and coupons for free products and discounts. This time around, the mission was all about “Red, White, and BBQ”.

The package of free goodies for this mission included:

 

There. I’m done pimping out the products for the mission. I do recommend trying them all, as they are wonderful in the opinion of my household.

 

37704196_10215091447293353_3453033150546968576_nThe mission suggested a backyard BBQ bash, but it’s been too hot to do much outside recently. Instead we had the party inside and enjoyed every bite.

There were ships and cookies and other assorted goodies on each plate served up, though the burgers and sliders simply stole the show.bite

 

 

 

 

37611425_10215091446413331_7249442738771329024_nWe gave the McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple a try. Instead of sprinkling onto a meat to be grilled, we mixed it into the hamburger meat with a couple of eggs and a bunch of shredded cheese. May not look like much in a bowl, but it came out better than we expected.

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Talk about outstanding flavor! The added smoky aroma and the subtle maple flavor wound all through the burger for a delicious surprise. We made burgers and sliders out of that one batch, with all the fixings, and can’t wait to try some of the other flavors.

— Ann Cathey