Monday, May 28, 2012

Backyard Beach Staycation #KmartOutdoor

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend, whether you traveled or kicked back at home - I would love to hear what you did!

Although we would have loved to go to the beach - we just took a vacation at the end of April and the budget is not allowing for another one quite yet. So we just figured we would hang out at home, maybe do some yard-work and some errands that are on the to-do list. That was the plan, until we got a hold of a Kmart Outdoor Living catalog... (click on the picture below to check out the catalog) 

We have been wanting a portable grill that we can take on road trips and camping - and Kmart had a few featured in their catalog. So we decided to go check them out in person...

First off, Kmart has 2 amazing deals this week:
- 50% off Outdoor Furniture and Decor
- a Kenmore 4-burner gas grill with side burner for only $199.99

If you want to see what other deals they have, check out:

I just had to share all that because they have some pretty spectacular deals - but back to what we found in the Outdoor Grilling department...

We found a bbq for every need - portable and not, charcoal, bbq covers, cooking utensils, grilling baskets and so much more! (Check out our shopping trip here on Google+)

A few exciting items I saw were Premium Cedar Grilling Planks (can't wait to try these), Jack Daniel's Wood Smoking Chips (they are actually made from the same barrels whiskey is made in - just smell them!) and The 'Ove' Glove (how do I not have one of these?!?).

After picking out a portable bbq, we were inspired to have a little Backyard Beach Staycation. All we needed were beach towels, some water (kiddie pool), a lifeguard (garden gnome), something to keep the bugs away (Tiki Torches) and of course a beach ball! To be honest, I was getting just as excited for our staycation as I do when we go on an actual vacation. :)

We already owned the chairs and blanket, everything else cost under $100!! 

I do have to brag about our new grill, real quick... (drumroll)

We are the proud new owners of a Weber Smokey Joe Silver! This is the first Weber we have ever purchased and although it is small, it is still my "BBQ Baby". :) A few features that rock on the Weber Smokey Joe are it's no-rust aluminum vent, porcelain-enameled lid & base, ash-catcher (makes grillin' a whole lot safer!) and the plated steel cooking grate. It really does pack a big punch for a little bbq!

Isn't she pretty? I didn't name her... yet. ;)

Did you know Kmart also sells food? We picked up some Bar-S hot dogs, ground chuck, Frito Scoops, Frito Hot Bean Dip, a whole watermelon, colby jack cheese and buns - all at Kmart! I can not express to you how much I love being able to buy everything at one store. Plus, I found some amazing Cherry Lemonade flavored water - it is Kmart's Smart Sense brand and only $1 for two 1-liter bottles. Score!

We had everything we needed for our Backyard Beach Staycation and it was time to enjoy it all!

I do want to mention that one good thing about being at home was having access to my spice cabinet and being able to make the "should-be-famous" Hungry Harps Burgers. ;) I am lucky if I remember salt & pepper whenever we take trips - let alone the "secret" ingredients for any recipe planned.

For dessert we warmed up an already baked Cherry Pie on the bbq and it turned out delicious! The smoke from the bbq gave the pie an amazing flavor. Another perk of being at home was having ice cream to serve! Heating up pies on the grill is going to be a new thing around here - it was just too wonderful.

We had an amazing time in our backyard and to be honest, it was much more relaxing than if we had gone to the beach. Of course we didn't have the view of an ocean - but I still got my feet wet, had grilled beach food, saw my babies smiling and was able to lay back, relax and enjoy the beautiful day. I am still giddy about what a great time we all had. :)

When the sun went down it only seemed right to light a bonfire! We had grabbed ingredients to make Smores from Kmart and let me tell you, it was the perfect ending to our day. No matter how old I get, roasting marshmallows will always make me feel like a kid. We sat around the fire, star-gazing and chatting until the fire went out and then called it a day.

Can we do this every single day this summer?!?!

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™. #CBias #SocialFabric

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Breakfast Burger Supreme

I was recently given the opportunity to create a recipe using Kraft Singles and after hours upon hours of brainstorming (seriously...) I came up with these Breakfast Burger Supremes. Even though these sandwiches are not anywhere in my diet plan, I still taste-tasted them and they are SO delicious!

But before I get into the details of the Breakfast Burger Supreme, I must first tell you about my history with Kraft Singles. They used to be my favorite snack as a little tike. I remember taking my Grandma by the hand to the fridge, opening the door and pointing to the top of the door - where she kept her Kraft Singles. Just one piece was all I wanted, and help unwrapping it. :) 

Then one day she made me a sandwich that I will never forget and to this day get a craving for. 1 slice Kraft Singles (American) and miracle whip between two slices of white bread. So simple and yet one of the most favorite dishes from my childhood. I mastered making the sandwich a while ago, however, I am still trying to figure out her Fried Chicken. ♥

Now let's get to those Breakfast Burger Supremes!

First, I started off with toasted hamburger buns. I use the broiler in our oven and it does the job nicely.

Next I added a slice of Kraft Singles - American flavor.

Then came the burger. Not a beef burger, but instead a 1/2 pound sausage burger. I shaped the patties out of ground sausage and then cooked them in a skillet over medium heat until done.

After the sausage was the egg. Imagine making an omelet with no ingredients and not folding it, but instead flipping the entire thing over - thus forming a big egg patty. Works best when I use my small skillet.

There is no way we could make a Breakfast Burger Supreme without adding bacon. 2 slices each sandwich!

Who needs hash-browns on the side when you can have them in your sandwich? Genius! haha

Last, but certainly not least was the country gravy.

Then I put the sandwiches together and in the oven for 5 minutes at 350 degrees - just long enough for the cheese to melt. So, it's a little prep work to make the sandwich, but totally worth it. Like I said earlier, it's not on my diet plan - but I am lucky to have a hubby who has everything on his diet plan. ;)

Breakfast Burger Supreme - printable recipe
Makes 2 sandwiches
2 hamburger buns, toastes
2 slices Kraft Singles, American cheese
2 ½ pound sausage burgers, cooked
2 eggs - fried, whisked or not
4 slices bacon, cooked
1.5 cups hash-browns, cooked
1 cup country gravy, warm
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Assemble burgers in order of ingredients listed.
3. Bake sandwiches for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
4. Serve warm and enjoy!

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a coupon for free Kraft Singles and a stipend.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mediterranean Ice Cream Party #IceCreamTreat

I love food holidays, so when I heard that May was Mediterranean Food Month - I knew we had to celebrate! An ice cream party may seem a little unconventional for this holiday, I understand that. The Mediterranean diet screams HEALTHY - so I must have lost my mind throwing an ice cream party to celebrate such a wholesome diet. Well, maybe I have - but the flavors of the Mediterranean just seemed perfect for an ice cream party.  Toppings such as nuts, fruit, honey and mint sounded unique and delicious, so the planning began... and the idea of Nut-Crusted Ice Cream Balls with Fresh Fruit Kabobs and Dipping Sauces was created!

We headed to Smart & Final to pick up the supplies needed for a Mediterranean Ice Cream Party. (Check out our shopping trip here) I am a huge fan of First Street Ice Cream - main reason being, it is made from Real California Milk. This is important to me, real important. You can read more about Real California Milk at the CMAB website here. There is some really good information on their site including the California standards for how dairy animals are treated to special coupons/deals for Californians.

Our local Smart & Final had a nice selection of First Street Ice Cream flavors; Vanilla Bean, Chocolate, Chocolate Chip, Strawberry, Vanilla, Neapolitan, Rocky Road, Cookies & Cream and Mint Chocolate Chip. In case those flavors don't suit your fancy, they also carry Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Butter Pecan and Moose Tracks (one of my favorites!). We bought the 48oz containers, but First Street also carries 3gallon and 5qt sizes, perfect for large parties.

Besides Ice Cream First Street also makes Sherbet, Fudge Bars, Sundae Cups, Ice Cream Cups, Ice Cream Sandwiches and Super Pops.

I absolutely love the packaging of First Street Ice Cream - the bright colors just have me thinking about Summer! :)

If you want to learn more about Smart & Final or their First Street brand check them out on their

We ended up getting 3 flavors - Vanilla Bean, Mint Chocolate Chip and Chocolate. Yum!

Alright, enough gabbing about how great Smart & Final and First Street Ice Cream are, let's get to those Nut-Crusted Ice Cream Balls!

They are super easy to make - they just take a little bit of time while waiting for the ice cream to set in the freezer. I just kept myself busy making sauces and fruit kabobs, the time will just breeze by. :)

First, I scoop ice cream balls and place them into muffin pans. I have tried doing this on baking sheets before, but the ice cream balls ended up getting stuck together - and that is not what we want.

Next, the ice cream balls go into the freezer for about 30 minutes. This is a good time to get all of your nuts ready!

I use chopped nuts and spread them out on a cutting board.

Then I rolled the ice cream balls around on top of the nuts, pressing them in with my fingertips. Don't be shy. ;)

Then it's back in the freezer - this time for at least an hour to make sure the nuts get set into the ice cream.

I used the time to get our Fruit Kabobs ready...

The secret to keeping the bananas from turning brown was soaking them in the pineapple juices for 5 minutes before assembling the kabobs.

I also prepared two sauces to be served with the Nut-Crusted Ice Cream Balls - don't worry, they are not ketchup and mustard! They are Raspberry Sauce and Lemon-Orange Sauce - both from scratch. :) Honey is also popular in the Mediterranean, so we made sure to include it as well.

A little after an hour, our Nut-Crusted Ice Cream were ready to be devoured eaten. Aren't they pretty?

Here is just a couple of our creations. (Ooh-la-la!) 

To redeem myself, if just a little bit - our main course consisted of a Mediterranean Salad and Red-Wine Marinated Shrimp. Smart & Final has a line of Mediterranean products, La Romanella, which helped me create these two dishes. Enjoy!

Check out some of the other Ice Cream Parties put on by fellow Smart & Final Smarties!! I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™. #CBias #SocialFabric

Monday, May 14, 2012

Red Wine-Marinated Shrimp

Did you know May is Mediterranean Food Month? We already celebrated with a Mediterranean Salad, a Mediterranean Ice Cream Party (the post will be up by the end of the month!) and these lovely Red Wine-Marinated Shrimp. They are wonderful - and they disappear when given to guests. Score!

This was the first time using wine in a marinade, so I was a bit worried about what it would do to the meat - but it worked out great.

Red Wine-Marinated Shrimp (printable recipe)
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup white onion, grated
4 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dry oregano
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
3 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup pineapple juice
60 medium shrimp - defrosted, peeled and deveined
1. Combine red wine, olive oil, onion, garlic, oregano, paprika, pepper and salt. Set in fridge for 1 hour.
2. Add pineapple juice and shrimp to marinade. Set in fridge for 45 minutes.
3. Skewer shrimp, making sure to not overcrowd. Cook over med-high heat until shrimp are pink and cooked through - about 5 minutes on each side was all it took for ours.
4. Enjoy!!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mediterranean Salad & Brutal Honesty #1

Ready for some brutal honesty? Here it goes… 

I weigh 207 pounds, and at 5’7” I can honestly tell you that I never imagined I would ever weigh this much. The last time I was at a weight that made me happy was about 5 years ago, pre-kids. Of course I wasn’t “skinny” then at 140 pounds, but I didn’t feel fat – and would rock a 2-piece swimsuit without hesitation. Since I had kids I have just let my weight go, but it is time to take back control. 

After checking out My Body Gallery I have decided I want to get back down to 140 – it looks absolutely healthy, and so much better than what I am now. I have decided to give myself some incentives for each 10 pounds I lose, all the way down to 140. 

Check out the prizes I am giving myself!
200# - Pedicure
190# – Sushi Dinner
180# – Purse
170#Electric Wok
160# – Sushi Dinner
150# – New Dinnerware Set
140# – Tattoo & Sushi Dinner

In order to lose the weight I have decided to do several different things:

Portion Control: I know this is going to shave off some pounds all on its own. If something is really tasty I tend to overindulge – and that needs to stop. Honestly, I want to get rid of the huge dinner plates we have – nobody needs to eat that much food…
Eat Healthier: This one should be pretty easy – or so I am hoping. At the beginning of this year we cut out eating at restaurants and I have been preparing our meals, it has already made a huge difference in how healthy we feel. The less preservatives, the better – and plus I love to cook, so it’s a total win/win. I still want to cut out meat two nights a week, and I am hoping that will help as well. 
Exercise: This is my complete and utter nemesis. When I was more active I would be down to jump on my bike and cruise around all day – but since I am so out of shape, I don’t know where to start. Since I have to start somewhere, I was thinking a 30 minute walk each day, followed by an exercise video (any recommendations would be APPRECIATED!!). 
Being Honest: I am going to keep a weekly update of my progress and be completely honest. If I am being honest with all of you, then I am being honest with myself as well. No cheating, no lying, no exaggerating. 

With all that said, how about some Mediterranean Salad?

 This salad was full of so many wonderful flavors and an awesome pairing with some Red-Wine Marinated Shrimp (recipe coming later this week!). May is Mediterranean Food month – and this salad is a great way to celebrate the foodie holiday. :)

Mediterranean Salad
Makes: 2 salads
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 slices of mozzarella cheese (I used about 1/4" thick slices)
1 cup cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 cup tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
rosemary for garnish
salt & pepper to taste
1. Mix together olive oil and lemon juice, set aside. (I always giggle when recipes call to set something aside, what is the other option? Leave it in my way? haha)
2. In two salad bowls layer ingredients in the following order: mozzarella, cucumbers, tomatoes, black olives, green onions, feta cheese and rosemary. 
3. Drizzle olive oil-lemon dressing over salad and season with salt & pepper.
4. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bagel Bar #CompareandSwap

One of life's age-old questions: Is store-brand really as good as the name-brand? Unfortunately, there really is no easy answer for that one. I have had horrible (I really should spell that HORRIBLE) luck with some store brands and then great luck with others. It really depends on the store and the item(s) in question.

As long as the quality warrants it, I prefer to buy the store-brand of several items: cereal, baking supplies, coffee, snack for the kiddos and dairy products. These are items that we purchase a lot of, so usually the savings is pretty nice. 

This past weekend we decided to have a challenge; National Name-Brand VS. Store Brand. The products? Bagels and Cream Cheese. The contenders? First Street Cream Cheese against Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese. The place? My Momma's House. :)

I headed to Smart & Final (they are on twitter and facebook too!) for our supplies - from bagels to cream cheese and jalapenos to chocolate chips - I got it all!! My shopping trip is here on Google+, check it out if you want to see inside a Smart & Final!

One remarkable deal I found were these Strawberries, only $4.99 for 4 pounds, now that is awesome!!

I had to take a picture of these bagels - as I walked out to the parking lot, the smell of them made me feel like I was walking out of a bagel shop. If only there were a toaster in my car...

We took all the goods to my parents house and set-up a wonderful Bagel Bar!

Prior to setting up our Bagel Bar, I had pulled both cream cheeses out of the fridge to soften. Mr Hungry Harp then put them into serving dishes for esthetic value. :) The First Street Cream Cheese was much softer than the Kraft Cream Cheese, making it easier to spread on our bagels.

Our selection of bagels included First Street brand; Blueberry, Cinnamon Raisin and Onion. We also had Plain and Parmesan flavored bagels from another company. First thing we noticed was that the First Street brand bagels were pre-cut, something that we found extremely convenient. Plus, I can never cut a bagel in half on my own, no matter how many times I try... 

I also like how First Street color codes their packaging to match the flavors, green for onion, blue for blueberry, etc. Bright coloring always grabs my eye in the store - so it really serves as a dual purpose here!

Our Bagel Bar had an array of toppings for anyone's bagel! For sweets we had honey, chocolate chips, raspberry jam, pineapple and strawberries. For the not-so-sweet we had green onions, salsa, jalapenos, spinach and tomatoes. For the meat-lovers we had bacon strips and cubed peppered turkey. 

Trust me when I tell you - you want to do a Bagel Bar!! 

It was not that expensive because we only used a portion of the toppings that were purchased - plus, I have awesome ingredients to make meals with for the rest of the week. Bonus! I can't wait to use those Jalapenos in something!!

Here are some of the creations our crowd came up with. Some sweet and some savory - both delicious. It was SO much fun sharing our masterpieces with each other and tasting all the different flavor combinations. 

We were like adults in a bagel store... haha

Ok, ok - so the verdict. 

Round#1 - Cream Cheese. Everyone was majorly impressed with First Street's Cream Cheese. It is not that is was "pretty good" for being the store-brand, it is just really good cream cheese. Everyone tried both the Kraft Cream Cheese and the First Street Cream Cheese and thought they were both of the same quality. In the future, I will be purchasing First Street Cream Cheese for all of my cream cheese needs. Also, everyone loved the First Street's packaging over the Kraft - the scene with cows in a field really gives the "at-home" feeling.

Round #2 - Bagels. Honestly, both brands of bagels tasted really good - so we could not pick one over the other based on our taste buds. One advantage that the First Street bagels had over the "other" brand was that they are pre-sliced. I love having my kiddos help out in the kitchen and if a knife is needed - it's one less things they can assist with. The other thing everyone liked was First Street's packaging - the bright colors are a good way to start your day. Plus I really like them being color-coded to the flavors - it makes it more fun for the kiddos when they help out!

While not all store-brand items are as good as their national name-brand counterparts -  First Street Bagels & Cream Cheese are just as good, if not better. We are making the swap - the savings will be great!

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias #SocialFabric

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Find of the Day #1 - Knife Depot

Knives are definitely one of the most important tools in the kitchen – and they are one of my favorites! There is nothing better than cutting into a piece of meat or produce with a wickedly sharp knife – and on the flip side, there is nothing worse than trying to do the same with a dull knife. For that reason, I am a bit of a knife snob, in regards to both the quality and the sharpness of the knives I use.

The cutlery set we own came from a department store – best part being, it was 50% off and we didn’t even know it! It is now nearing 5 years old and I am thinking we need an upgrade, but I have yet to find anything in a department store that is better than what we currently have. I don’t want to replace it, I want to upgrade it. So I have just talked myself into being satisfied with what I have… until today.

Sometimes I can be ditzy, but as to why I hadn’t looked at a knife retailer for a quality cutlery set is just beyond me! I am literally kicking myself in the rear for not finding Knife Depot sooner than I did. Not only do they have an AWESOME selection of knives that my hubby would love (swords, pocket knives, collector knives) but they also have an AMAZING selection of kitchen cutlery that I am just head over heels for!

Let me share a few of the gems I found...

First up, the Boker Damascus Kitchen Set - Olive Wood. This has to be the most beautiful set I have seen. There is no way that I could be good enough all year for Santa to bring me this - it's gonna take some work and sweat, but this is going on my official wish list.

via Knife Depot

Second is a Gerber Knife, their Gator Fillet Knife with 7.5" Full Tang High Carbon Stainless Steel Blade to be exact. I think this may be a Mother's Day present for me this year because I am in desperate need of a fillet knife and because my hubby and I are already Gerber fans. Romantic gift huh? :)

via Knife Depot

Third up is the Spyderco Moran Drop Point Skinner - which is used in hunting to skin game. Mr. Hungry Harp is not hunting yet - but considering he already has his huntung rifles picked out, I don't see it being too long from now. Plus, Spyderco is an American company - which Hungry Harps is very keen on supporting!

via Knife Depot

If you are in need of any knives I would highly recommend checking out Knife Depot. You can browse knives by brand or category and then sort those selections by price, bestselling, featured or release date. They also have a Knife Info & Tips sections that covers almost anything you could ever want to know about knives, from knife history to teaching your children about knife safety. I will definitely be going back to purchase my knives in the future - especially that Boker Damascus Kitchen Set!

What brand of knives do you use for food preparation? Where do you shop for your knives? What would be your dream cutlery set?