Monday, May 16, 2011

Pepperoni, Cheese Nips, and a Reese's Peanut Butter Egg for Dinner

Sometimes you just have to eat what your body craves . . . so tonight (blame it on raging hormones), I consumed Hormel Pepperoni (crisped in the microwave), a pack of 100 Calories Cheese Nips from Nabisco, and a left over Reese's Peanut Butter Egg for dinner.

Hey, give me credit that the Peanut Butter Egg has survived this long untouched.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Baby Arugula at the Dollar Store? You Betcha!

In the past of touted the virtues of Dole bagged salad mix at the 99 Cent Store, and recently I've been getting a wonderful Spring Mix and Broccoli Slaw there as well - but Baby Arugula??? Like at those hoity toity gourmet markets, and upscale restaurants? Is this my hood or Brentwood?

Now if I'm going to take a picture of my salad, I admit, I make it pretty . . . but in actuality, I have a little secret of salad making, and I'll share it with you.

Put the good stuff on the bottom. Make an upside down salad. That's right -- the cheese, and the croutons, and the nuts, go in first, not last. That way you have to dig around for them, and in the process you are sure to get some greens down your gullet.

Maybe even some baby arugula, whether you like it or not.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Black Forest Cake for Mom on Mother's Day

Ever since I made the Dollar Store Version of Charles Phoenix's "Cherpumple" last week, baking things inside of things is my new passion. "The Great Cornrollio" I made on Friday was pretty good, but today, I pull out the piece de resistance and make a Black Forest Cake , with Mrs. Redd's (like Hostess) Cherry Pies and Devil's Food Cake Mix.

A traditional German Black Forest Cake contains alcohol, and the one you may be used to has whipped cream. I have whipped topping, but honestly I think it is a little messy to work with, and prefer dense chocolate, cherries and buttercream.

The procedure is simple. Mix up the cake batter, pour a little in a greased bread size baking tin. Bake for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven until it firms up a little, then place your pie in the center. Pour remaining batter over and around the pie and bake for another 20 - 30 minutes.

I made two of these as the cake mix will make enough batter for a pair, as they are on the small size.

Let cool and then frost with this "Quick-as-a-Wink" Chocolate frosting (I got this recipe from a vintage cookbook picked up at the Library Bookstore - no cover).

6 oz semi sweet chocolate pieces
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
3 Tbsp milk
1 cup powdered sugar

Melt first 3 ingredients in a saucepan, then beat in powdered sugar until smooth, glossy and easy to spread. If not glossy, stir in a few drops hot water.

Now make some basic white frosting (butter or margarine, and powdered suger), to decorate your cake.

Here's what really puts this dessert over the top -- adorn with Queen Anne chocolate covered cherries.

You can layer this cake and add whipped topping, or buttercream in between and on top if you prefer, but for my first time out, I'm working with the "logs" individually.

This is such an elegant, delicious, yet fun and easy dessert. Another treat you really can't mess up.

Mom is going to be so impressed with your creativity, and thriftiness!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Don't Call it Derby Pie

I'm afraid to even type "Derby Pie" as it is trademarked and voraciously protected by Kern's Kitchen of Kentucky which baked up the first delectable batch in 1954.

So, let me make this perfectly clear -- I am NOT making Derby Pie, I am however making something vaguely remeniscent of this Kentucky Derby favorite with Dollar Store ingredients.

This treat is called many things to escape the wrath of the Kern's. A quick search will turn up "Pegasus Pie", "Run for the Roses Pie", "Twin Spires Pie" . . . the list goes on. Basically, it is Pecan Pie with Bourbon and Chocolate.

I'll be replacing Bourbon with copious quantities of vanilla, making a caramel with sweetened condensed milk, and doing all sorts of other changes. I was able to pick up a graham cracker crust, cream cheese, pecans, chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk to build my pie.

I made a modified cheesecake base with 1 package cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg, 4 ounces sour cream, 2 tsp. vanilla extract, and melted chocolate chips. I mixed it up, and baked it a bit before I added more chocolate chips, chopped pecans and drizzled sweetened condensed milk -- which caramelizes as it cooks.

I put it back in the oven, and took it out after about 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

The result is delicious.

Okay, I'll admit it looks a lot like Turtle Cheesecake, just don't call it Derby Pie.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Great Cornrollio

Ever since I made the Dollar Store version of the Cherpumple (which was just a couple of days ago) I've been obsessed with the notion of cooking things inside of things. Oh, I know this is nothing new, I mean how else would be have Beef Wellington, Black Forest Cake, or Baked Alaska (and that is only stuff starting with B)? But to make a something special with the simple and economical products from a Dollar Store, well, that has become my own personal challenge.

This morning I woke up around noon, with a wild thought -- what about Pizza Rolls baked inside of Corn Bread -- I would call this creation "The Great Cornrollio"!

So that's what I did. I got Michelina Cheese Pizza Rolls and a package of Martha White Corn Bread Mix. I put the rolls in the oven for a bit to bake, while I mixed the Corn Bread. I poured a little mix in a greased bread pan, and put in the oven to bake for a few minutes. Then I took my pizza rolls and laid them side by side (this took 8) Then I put more mix around and on top and placed 4 rolls lengthwise on top. After 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven it was done.

This is a great twist on an old favorite, and now it is time to see what Beavis has to say.

I'm a Nut for Nuts -- Planters Flavor Grove Almonds

My strongest weakness is nuts -- I can resist sweets, but nuts get me every time -- especially almonds . . . so when I saw then Planters Flavor Grove - Cracked Pepper Onion and Garlic Almonds in the 99 Cent Store today I was wise to pick up only one bag.

To make them all the more desirable they are "skinless" --- ooo, sexy. Alright, I know I need a hobby, or to get out more often, but a bag of these nuts is all I need to satisfy me on a dark, lonely night.

Quaker Oats True Delights Granola Bars

Lately, the 99 Cent Only Store I frequent, has had two varieties of Quaker Oats True Delights Granola Bars - Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond (5 per box) and Dark Chocolate Mocha Hazelnut (6 per box). The Raspberry is more traditional rectangular bar shape, and the Mocha Hazelnut is nearly square (actually they are called Cafe Squares).

They are both pretty dang good, and a definite step up in sophistication from your average bar.

Like the Newton Fruit Crisps, they go well with yogurt in the morning, and at the Dollar Store they are one sweet deal.

Oscar Mayer Sandwich Combos with $1 Coupon - FREE!!!

Okay, who says there is no such thing as a free lunch! I found two varieties of these Oscar Mayer Sandwich Combos (Ham and Turkey) at the 99 Cent Only Store and they both had bright pink peelable coupons on them that said "Save $1.00 Now".

The only trouble was, by the time I got to the register I had forgotten all about them and I did not redeem them like I had planned. So long story short, I may never know if there truly is such a thing as a free lunch.

These combos wouldn't be bad if they were free, and they are okay for a dollar, but I wouldn't pay anymore for them.

They include a ridiculously thin bread bun, some meat and cheese and a mustard pack. As a side you get a 100 calorie pack of either wheat thins, or cracker mix. For dessert there is a chocolate mousse pudding thing, but I'm not really a fan of those.

The packs I got were very near their expiration date, hence their presence in the refridgerated case at the Dollar Store.

I grabbed one out of my refridgerator on my hurried way to work yesterday, and it was convenient and kept me from starving, but it was nothing to write home about.

Today, I am going to combine the veggie sandwich that I made a few days ago that was so delicious with my stuff in the Sandwich Combo, for a more satisfying meal.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What's for dinner on 5/5???

A 5 ingredient, 5 Dollar feast for Cinco de Mayo, of course.

Pour some tortilla chips in a bowl - I love the Granny Goose Brand I get from the 99 Cent Only Store. In fact I usually end of eating the chips and forgoing the rest of the ingredients -- I'm bad, I know.

Then put some romaine mix, or cabbage, or any other salad type stuff in there -- or not, it's up to you.

Next comes some sort of beans, I used Rosarita Fat Free Refried Beans.

Cheese, Salsa, maybe some red onions, and sour cream and you're set. It's pretty, isn't it? You'll never pay $5 - 10 bucks for a single Taco Salad in a restaurant without feeling guilty again.

Okay, I realize I used more than 5 ingredients, but this is another one of those very flexible creations that doesn't suffer from more or less. So use what you have, and what you like.

If you eat half the bag of Tortilla Chips before you get the other stuff out, I won't tell.

Margarita Jello for Cinco de Mayo -- Everyone gets a Worm!

I admit, I'm not a big fan of Tequila, or Margaritas (they give me a headache), but I do love lime Jello (or gelatin, in the case of the Dollar Store offerings).

So why not let the kids and the lightweights indulge as well at your Cinco de Mayo Fiesta with Jello Margaritas?!

Simply wet the rim of a few Margarita glasses with water and dip them in sugar.

Then make lime gelatin, but get a little creative by adding pineapple or lemon juice or orange juice in place of some of the cold water. Place a gummy worm in the bottle of the glass, and pour your mixture over it. Don't forget to hang a gummy worm off the side, just 'cuz it looks so cool. Chill for 4-8 hours, and delight your guests with this fun dessert.

Now, if anyone misses the tequila, just play this --

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Cherpumple -- Dollar Store Version

Charles Phoenix is a "Histo-tainer" whose specialty is vintage slide shows, but he is also known for his retro-inspired culinary creations. Sometimes they are straight out his slides, like the Astro Weenie Christmas Tree, and sometimes they are straight out of his brilliantly twisted mind, like the Inchezonya, "Tiki Turkey Thanksgiving Feast" and the "Cherpumple".

Last year, the Wall Street Journal ran this article about the Cherpumple, which is the dessert version of the Turducken (a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey). Charles was inspired by watching his relatives load up their plate with their favorite pies at Thanksgiving, and decided to make a cake with a cherry, pumpkin, and apple pie in each of its three layers.

Is it genius, or the embodiment of the second of the seven deadlies? It sounds delicious, but also ambitious, so I decided to interpret it with the Dollar Store edition.

I got lucky, and found Banquet individual pies in the freezer section of the 99 Cent Only Store. I picked up Apple, Peach, and one damaged Cherry/Mixed Berry. This changed my "Cherpumple" into a "Cher-Pea-Ple", but I forged ahead.

I found 7" foil pans at the Dollar Tree, which were the perfect size for my smaller pies. To simplify and economize further, I used one package of Yellow cake mix for all layers (Charles uses spice mix for the apple layer, white for the cherry, and yellow for the pumpkin).

I upped Charles in the frosting department, and went with the classic homemade cream cheese powdered sugar topping. I could easily change the texture, and I figured no matter how sketchy things got (and they did), I could rely on this frosting to hold it all together.

The first step is to bake the pies, and I opted for the oven. These little pies are just like Banquet's pot pies, except they are fruit -- which means crust and filling uniformity is not their strong suit -- they are a mess to be honest. But once I started, I couldn't stop until I had completed my mission, so I worked with I had. I poured some of the yellow cake batter in the pans (sprayed with Pam -- the Dollar Store version of course) then plopped the pie stuff in the center. More batter in the pans, and in the oven they went.

I baked the layers until golden brown and let them cool. I was lucky that the tin pans tore away easily and I was able to place the layers without complete disaster. The frosting saved me, and I actually began to have some fun decorating my cake. I shoved the thing in the fridge for the night, and today I'm happy to say that it held its form when I cut into it.

So maybe you can't really identify the fruit filling as pies, but the taste made up for any shortcoming, and I am actually proud of my Cherpeaple.

As an encore, I am plotting a cherry fried pie baked in a chocolate cake, topped with chocolate covered cherries . . . stay tuned!

P.S. The Dollar Store version feeds 4-6, and costs about $6 for the whole pie cake.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sara Lee Thin Style Buns - Honey Wheat -- Veggie Sandwich

I love finding these great (day old) Sara Lee products on the shelf at the 99 Cent Only Store, and this one had a great recipe on the back.

I followed it almost nearly exact, except instead of Swiss cheese I used a combo of pepper jack and cheddar.

So here goes --

2 Sara Lee Honey Wheat Thin Style bun
2 tsp spicy brown mustard
1/4 cup shredded carrot
3 slices tomato
1 thin slice red onion
1/4 cup mixed field greens
4 slices cucumber
2 slices Swiss cheese

It then proceeds to tell you how to build a sandwich, but you know what to do, right?

Throw all this stuff on the bread, and enjoy. You can't screw it up, and this might actually be good for you.

This was so good, I actually had to make myself another and eat two -- the combo of simple spicy brown mustard, wheat bread, cheese, and veggies is genius!

Newton Fruit Crisps - Mixed Berry

Over on Amazon,com they are raving about this snack from the folks that bring you Fig Newtons (Nabisco!). You can buy a 6 pack of 8 pouches (actually 16 because there are 2 bars per pouch) for around $34 bucks, but I prefer the Dollar Store way!

That's right, I got a 6 pack for $1 dollar -- you do the math. Amazon = $4.80, the 99 Cent Only Store = $1.00.

Here's the best part -- they are just as delicious know matter what you pay, but your wallet will like it a lot better if you save the dough.

These are getting good reviews, being likened to a sophisticated Pop-Tart, and I do enjoy them, if they are a little slim. Be prepared to want to chow through two pouches (4 bars) of these snacks.

The 99 Cent Only Store had the Mixed Berry flavor, so I can't vouch for the Apple Cinnamon, but all and all a good edition to my midmorning routine. I generally don't eat breakfast, but around 10:30 a.m. I'm hungry enough to grab some yogurt and a granola bar -- a sort of continental breakfast if you will . . . and everytime I say or write the word "continental" I think of this guy:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Garlic Bagel Chips

Sometimes one of my favorite products shows up on the Dollar Store shelves and I just want to jump for joy.

Yesterday it was New York Style Original Bagel Crisps -- Roasted Garlic flavor, and I snatched that lone bag I saw sitting on the shelf faster than a Manhattan minute.

Normally these cost around $2.50 - $3.00 a bag, and they are totally worth the full price, but who pays full price? Not me.

Their website has all sorts of wonderful recipes, and you know I'm going to trying the Bloody Mary Cocktail Spread .

The bagel chips or "crisps" as they are called are great with any sort of cream cheese and are the perfect accompaniment to the assortment of salads I have been fixing lately.